Tuesday, 07 April 2020

Pretoria: Health Minister Zweli Mkhize says as of Tuesday, the total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases is 1 749.

“There is also another death, bringing the total to 13 deaths. It was a male who had stage 4 prostate cancer at Parklands Hospital. We convey our condolences to the family of the deceased,” the Minister said during a briefing with the Motsepe Foundation.

He said they were concerned about developments at St Augustine’s Hospital. He said 66 people tested positive over the past few days.

“About 48 of them are staff. The Provincial department is engaging the hospital, with a view to closing parts of the hospital down.

“We hope the fumigation process will start soon there. We have also assigned specialists there. We must always be on the lookout. The infection can seep in from any institution. We must now trace all the contacts. It is a matter of serious concern and we are dealing with it,” the Minister said.

He said the number of patients who are being treated, are slowly recovering, adding that mass testing has also started in all provinces.

With regards to personal protective equipment (PPE), the Minister said they do not have at the moment enough patients to exhaust the pre-existing stock.

“Everyone is anxious. Healthcare workers are nervous. But it is possible for them to point out where the shortages are, so we can move stock around,” Mkhize said.

“As stock comes in, we will start preparing for the period after. So we are preparing ahead. We don’t even have a hundred people in hospital at the moment countrywide.”

Private sector partners with government

The Motsepe Foundation today donated much-needed PPE to the Department of Health that will last the State eight weeks.

This will go a long way in safeguarding health workers who are in the frontline caring for the COVID-19 patients.

The organisation delivered the PPE to Minister Mkhize to distribute to nine provinces.

The handover is against the backdrop of the National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) approaching the labour court to compel the Department of Health to provide PPE due to the lack of masks, gloves and sanitisers in health facilities.

Mkhize thanked the Motsepe Foundation for their contribution.

“Top of the list is 200 000 surgical masks and thank you for your swift action and generous donation, Patrice and Precious [Motsepe],” he said, adding that the PPE is an important contribution.

“This stock was intercepted. [And] we were able to pay upfront using the Motsepe Foundation’s donation.”

Mkhize said the partnership between government and the private sector is key and that he’s expecting more consignments to come in because of such collaborations.

He said the government also worked with India and China which helped the deliveries to come through to our shores.

“Two key areas of fighting this infection. One is lockdown, sanitation and hygiene. The second is to make sure the sick get better. Here our health workers are key and, in the frontline,” Mkhize stressed.

Limited access to supplies worldwide

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has noted that there’s limited access to supplies such as gloves, medical masks, respirators, goggles, face shields, gowns, and aprons worldwide. According to the agency this shortage is sparked by the “rising demand, panic buying, hoarding and misuse” and as a result is putting the health workers’ lives at risk and leaving them vulnerable as they take care of the coronavirus patients.

“Without secure supply chains, the risk to healthcare workers around the world is real. Industry and governments must act quickly to boost supply, ease export restrictions and put measures in place to stop speculation and hoarding. We can’t stop COVID-19 without protecting health workers first,” said WHO Director-General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

WHO estimates that 89 million medical masks are required for the COVID-19 response, 76 million for examination gloves, while 1.6 million goggles are needed each month across the globe.

Last week, the Deputy Health Minister Joe Phaahla made the assurance during a ministerial press briefing where he said the government would be getting stock this week.