Tuesday, 12 May 2020

Eastern Cape: As the numbers of Eastern Cape COVID-19 infections continue to spread like wildfire, the Health Minister, Dr Zweli Mkhize, says they are working around the clock to contain transmissions.

Speaking in the province where he was monitoring COVID-19 responses on Monday, Mkhize said he was pleased about the additional beds put in place to deal with the high number of COVID-19 patients.

The Eastern Cape now has the fourth-highest number of infections in the country, while the Western Cape remains in the lead.

Mkhize met with Premier Oscar Mabuyane as well as Health MEC, Sindiswa Gomba, Head of departments and senior management.

Additionally, a team of health workers is going to be stationed in areas identified as hotspots such as Buffalo City and Nelson Mandela Bay.

The province has already employed 800 nurses within the past few weeks while additional doctors will also be brought in as a response to the virus.

Cuban doctors who are specialists in managing the disease are also being roped in.

“The Cuban doctors came here out of their love for humanity,” said the Minister, adding that these doctors are assisting in various countries around the world.

“I don’t think it’s correct to have all these knives and jabs and negative sentiments because of it just an unnecessary stereotype.”

Cuban health professionals arrived in the country in April to support efforts to curb the spread of COVID-19 in South Africa.

He said government is working hard in addressing the rapid increase of infections.

“In our discussion with our Premier, [it emerged] that the proximity to the Western Cape means these provinces are operating as an ecosystem where the numbers are showing a particular trend in increasing in an upward trajectory,” he said.


He told journalists that additional programmes to deal with  containment measures are in place in communities.

A major challenge, he said, is the attendance of funerals, with people travelling between the Western Cape and the Eastern Cape to bury their loved ones.

The Minister has pleaded with citizens to take precautionary measures where funerals are concerned, as they bring together a lot of people and contribute to the spread.

“People tend to be closer and we must remember funerals shouldn’t have more than 50 people.”

He said that memorial services and night vigils should be discontinued.

“We are aware that exchanging of utensils or shovels could pose a risk,” he warned.

He urged those attending  funerals to wear gloves and where possible, use tractors or other equipment when closing the graves.


Mkhize reminded South Africans that the wearing of masks is now compulsory.

“Cloth masks are acceptable because we must keep specialised masks for health workers at the forefront.”

He said it is paramount to protect societies, while also calling on community members not to sitgmatise those who have been infected.

“Our people shouldn’t discriminate against anyone who is infected and people mustn’t run away or hide the information when they’re positive so that they can be assisted,” he said.

Meanwile, additional Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) will be procured to protect health workers.

On the public screening front, he said the Eastern Cape has screened a million people for the virus.

Mkhize expressed satisfaction with the way the province is dealing with social relief and economic activities.

“All of these issues indicated the provincial government is on top of its game and trying its best to respond as expected.”