South Africa

CORONAVIRUS NEWSFLASH

Covid-19 cases rise to 709 as SA awaits detail on movement in lockdown

Covid-19 cases rise to 709 as SA awaits detail on movement in lockdown
Photo by Martin Sanchez on Unsplash

Cases of Covid-19 have risen to 709 in South Africa, up from 554 on the previous day, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize announced on Wednesday morning. The minister urged South Africans to follow precautions and stay at home.

The impending lockdown, which will begin on Friday morning, is necessary to avoid spreading Covid-19 at large gatherings and on trains and taxis as the virus continues to spread among South Africans who have no international travel history, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said on Wednesday.

Mkhize, speaking on SABC, said the number of confirmed Covid-19 cases had risen to 709, an increase of 155 from Tuesday.

The minister said two patients were in ICU in a private hospital but no Covid-19 related deaths had been recorded in South Africa. Five people who had contracted the virus have since turned negative and many others are improving but still carry the virus and can infect others.

Mkhize said three medical professionals had been infected, two of whom either had recent travel history or had been in contact with someone who contracted Covid-19.

Mkhize said the lockdown would help prevent residents travelling across the country during the Easter period and potentially spreading Covid-19 at meetings such as church gatherings, which would make it increasingly difficult to trace who they have come in contact with.

“A lockdown is supposed to address that aspect, the aspect that’s supposed to avoid large movements of people,” said the minister.

“There is no other way: people must stay at home,” he added.

“This virus is not going to be defeated by doctors and nurses; it is going to be defeated by individuals.”

After Mkhize’s Wednesday morning interview, the Cabinet’s justice, crime prevention and security cluster (JCPS) was due to give an update on how the lockdown will be implemented. Many questions remain unanswered on what movement, outside of those working in essential services, will be allowed.

Asked whether people will be allowed to go jogging or walk their dogs, Mkhize said it should not be a problem.

“What we really want to avoid is people congregating in large numbers and big meetings,” said the minister.

He also warned people not to invite guests home for braais or parties during the lockdown.

A guideline released by government communications on Tuesday said, “People will still be allowed to get to shops and access essential goods and services but in small numbers.

“Only undertake essential trips outside your home such as to get food, seek medical care or access medical supplies,” it added.

Asked whether roads would be closed and inter-province travel curtailed, Mkhize said, “I don’t want to make any specifications about it because the Defence Force is going to be deploying and we’ll see how they manage that.”

The minister said the almost 13,000 Covid-19 tests conducted, mostly by the private sector, is “a good start”.

“But what we are seeing is the constraints in terms of the availability of reagents,” he added, referring to the chemicals needed to conduct the tests.

Government is trying to increase its testing capacity and regionalise testing to ensure a greater number of people in the public system can be checked.

Currently, people using the public system, which provides free tests, must go via doctor, clinic or hospital, show Covid-19 symptoms and have been in contact with someone who has tested positive.

The increasing number of local transmissions will make it more difficult to trace whether people have come into contact with someone who has tested positive for Covid-19 and the government will need to ramp up its capacity in response.

Mkhize said the cost of tests in the private system, around R1,400, was too high and he had met with private healthcare providers to request them to lower the cost.

“We can’t allow anyone to profiteer,” said the minister. 

Gauteng and Western Cape continued to dominate the numbers, but Mkhize said there had been a concerning spike of in Free State, which recorded 50 new cases overnight stemming from a large church gathering in Bloemfontein, attended by five international visitors who tested positive.

Mkhize called on anyone who attended the event at Divine Restoration Ministries between 9 and 14 February to come forward for testing. DM

Gallery

"Information pertaining to Covid-19, vaccines, how to control the spread of the virus and potential treatments is ever-changing. Under the South African Disaster Management Act Regulation 11(5)(c) it is prohibited to publish information through any medium with the intention to deceive people on government measures to address COVID-19. We are therefore disabling the comment section on this article in order to protect both the commenting member and ourselves from potential liability. Should you have additional information that you think we should know, please email [email protected]"

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