Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize Answers COVID-19 Questions in the National Assembly

Article by: SA Coronavirus 

Minister Mkhize Speaks 

Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize has outlined the criteria which may classify an area as a COVID-19 epidemiological hotspot.

Answering questions in the National Assembly on Wednesday, Mkhize clarified that all districts in South Africa will move to lockdown level three on June 1.

He explained government has taken measures to identify areas that have been defined as epidemiological hotspots. These include any geographic areas which record five or more positive cases of COVID-19 per 100,000 in the population.

“Any geographic area which has recorded five or more positive cases per 100,000 of the population during a period under consideration is labelled as an epidemiological hotspot. This is informed by the weekly rate of change in the percent of active positive cases per 100,000 of the population per geographical area,” he said.

“Epidemiological hotspots may occur because of the importation of the COVID-19 virus into geographical areas or due to community transmissions. Epidemiological hotspots require that the monitoring of active cases is undertaken. Epidemiological hotspots may include a ward, a sub-district, a district or a metropolitan region.”

Modeling

Several COVID-19 modelling groups have released their estimates publically.

There are three types of modelling:  projections which estimate new infections and deaths as well as the resources needed for the response; the interventions if fully implemented that can flatten the curve; and the spatial models which can be used to identify hotspots.

“According to the South African Modelling Consortium, the peak of the infection is expected in mid-July in the pessimistic scenario and mid-August in the optimistic scenario. These models should be considered dynamic and is dependent on new data that comes in. It should only be used as a guide for what may be possible,” Mkhize said.

“It is estimated that the number of deaths could range between 34,000 to 50,000. 

All of these figures have also been challenged by other academics…they are open for debate by those who are specialists in this area…We do believe that the models will improve as time goes in and more raw data is fed into their assumptions.”

Religious centres

Centres for worship are among the facilities that will be allowed to open on June 1 – provided they follow strict guidelines.

“We must salute the religious leaders who have embraced the decision to lockdown the country…There will be a number of restrictions that we in our normally daily lives will have to put in place. We take the church and the face based community as partners in the fight against COVID-19, particularly to ensure social behavioural change,” Mkhize said.

Increased capacity

Mkhize said a team of Cuban doctors have been dispatched to the Western Cape to assist local healthcare workers to prevent the spread of the virus.

“We are very grateful for the support of the Cuban doctors. Over the weekend they were distributed to all the provinces and indeed there is a group of 28 dispatched to the Western Cape. 

They have been warmly received…They are coming to reinforce the work being done by the team in the Western Cape. This team in the Western Cape is doing their best to try and contain the outbreak,” Mkhize said.

“There are constraints in our health system but the President has announced additional resources to assist us to augment the needs we have decided upon. Every province is now increasing the number of beds and putting up field hospitals. 

We have had additional human resources being employed. 800 nurses have been employed in the Western Cape in the past two weeks, and the Eastern Cape has done the same with just under 1000 nurses.”

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