Thursday, 30 April 2020

Pretoria: South Africa will look into the creation of triage centres at health facilities in a bid to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

With governments worldwide confronted with tough decisions on ways to combat the spread of the virus, Health Minister, Dr Zweli Mkhize, said the country is going forward with its preparedness strategy.

“Our preparedness needs to be focused on creating triage centres in hospitals, clinics, so that people who walk into hospitals or clinics, who have respiratory symptoms, must be separated from the rest of the people,” said the Minster on Thursday.

Mkhize said the creation of triage centres will assist government to contain the spread of the virus, whilst protecting other patients housed at the country’s health facilities.

The Minister made these comments during an online media briefing on COVID-19 with experts such as World Health Organisation (WHO): Regional Director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti and Professor Kojo Ansah Koram, an epidemiologist from Ghana.

The briefing, which discussed ways to minimise the impact of the virus on the African continent, was organised with support from the World Economic Forum as part of the COVID Action Platform.

To date, Africa has 34 610 COVID-19 cases.

Detailing South Africa’s response to the pandemic, Mkhize explained that the country took a united stand, rallying political parties, business and civil society to drive a coordinated Coronavirus response.

To date, about 5 350 South Africans have contracted the virus, while about 103 have died.

Mkhize outlined the measures taken since 5 March 2020, when South Africa recorded its first COVID-19 case.

Measures taken include the declaration of a National State of Disaster, which saw the country implement social distancing measures, limiting crowds and finally a lockdown in a bid to slow the rate of infection.

With the country’s COVID-19 peak expected in September, Mkhize said government is looking to set up field hospital beds to ensure that asymptomatic patients, who do not need treatment but are still infective, do not return to overcrowded communities, where they can potentially spread the virus.

Currently, South Africa has 30 people in intensive care units due to the virus and about 15 are on ventilators. The majority of people, who are infected, are in isolation at home.

Mortality

In relation to mortality, Mkhize said it was still too early to tell the rate, as Africa only began recording cases much later than other continents.

Current trends in South Africa show that most of the patients, who have succumbed to the virus, had underlying comorbidities such as cardiovascular diseases, pulmonary and renal diseases, HIV and immune-comprised situations due to cancers.

The majority of the people who lost their lives have also been above 60.

COVID-19 in Africa

In terms of the situation in Africa, Moeti said while cases on the continent are still on the increase, the steps being taken by countries is encouraging.

“We have a number of countries that have reported zero cases over a couple of weeks. These are admittedly relatively small countries- Namibia, Mauritania and the Seychelles, but they have put in place some early measures starting with testing, [and] contact tracing which have produced some results.”

She expressed concern about the situation in West Africa.

“We are very concerned about West Africa, where we are seeing community spread in a significant number of countries compared to others. We are working with the United Nations to see how to support that,” she said.

Moeti said the WHO recognises that these are not easy decisions to make, at a political and policy level but she urged countries to strike a balance.

“We encourage the use of data so that when a government decides not to lockdown a city, they need to be aware that there will be consequences in terms of the spread of the virus.”