Tuesday, 14 July 2020

Pretoria: Health Minister, Dr Zweli Mkhize, has reassured South Africans that health care professionals are doing all they can to save lives as COVID-19 infections rise.

Mkhize visited Dr George Mukhari Academic Hospital in Tshwane, Gauteng, on Tuesday.

The province is the first to surpass the 100 000 mark, as infections are now at 103 713.

Meanwhile, there are 287 796 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the country and 4 172 deaths.

Mkhize urged medical facilities to act quickly on cases, while the department is working around the clock to procure more beds.

The Minister said they will also erect marquees and alternative building technology wards to fast track the provision of hospital beds.

“We must make sure we move fast so that by the time the surge comes, we have enough beds.”

He said field hospital beds are also being fitted with oxygen cylinders to render that level of care required by patients.

More nurses for the sick

Gauteng is sourcing about 1 300 nurses, some of whom shave started at various hospitals. The province is also working with nursing agencies to meet the demand.

The protection of staff is top of the agenda for government, as some staff raised concern about lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) and them falling ill.

“It is not so much that people do not want to work. The issue is if the soldier in the forefront is worried about confronting the adversaries, you cannot win that battle.

“The key is to make sure our staff, nurses, general workers, clinicians and everyone feels confident that they can [work against] COVID-19  because they are well trained, well-motivated and well protected,” the Minister said, stressing that medical practitioners must have all the equipment and medication they need to be able to do their job.

The surge 

While Gauteng has the most infections, Mkhize said KwaZulu-Natal now has more new infections per day compared to the Eastern Cape.

“That was the original projection that Gauteng is going to have the highest surge, followed by KwaZulu-Natal and then Western Cape and Eastern Cape.”

The Western Cape peak was previously the epicentre for almost two months.

“At some point, every person who was COVID-19 positive in the country was in the Western Cape. That figure is down now by 40%. It’s not that Western Cape infections are not increasing, it’s just that the other provinces have now taken over,” said Mkhize.

Meanwhile, Gauteng has one of the lowest mortality rates with 644 deaths since the outbreak, while the Western Cape is sitting at 2 385 as of Monday.

“But these numbers are going to pick up in Gauteng,” the Minister warned.

He once again reiterated that the suspension of the sale and distribution of liquor was to alleviate trauma cases in hospitals, thereby freeing staff to care for the ill.

“Theatres, ICUs and out-patient units shouldn’t be clogged by people who are bleeding,” he said.

Rape case

Mkhize said he also noted the unfortunate case of the two-year-old child, who was allegedly raped at George Mukhari hospital while in an isolation ward in June.

“We take a very strong stance against abuse, negligence and mismanagement of patients.”

He said he was supporting the investigation into the matter to ensure that justice prevails.

“We leave it in the hands of the law to take its course.”

Russian vaccine

With regards to developments around the Russian COVID-19 vaccine, Mkhize explained that vaccine trials undergo several steps of development before they are given the green light.

“You have to do work at the laboratories, do the research, move to animal studies and when it passes that, you have to move to a human trial,” he said.

Russsian researchers announced that they might be the first in the world to develop a Coronavirus vaccine, as they have completed tests on volunteers.

However, Mkhize said the vaccine has not been finalised.

“The same trial is going on in the US, UK, Brazil and other countries.

“We’re not yet at a point where we’ve got a ready vaccine. It is good news, yes, but it is work in progress. It is still early days.

“We haven’t come to a point where we can just go to Russia and source a vaccine for South Africans.”