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COVID-19: SA not out of the woods yet

Health Minister, Dr Zweli Mkhize, says while South Africa is making progress in its fight against the Coronavirus, it is still too early to claim the victory of a decline.

“There were reports that the hospitals were full and we went around confirmed that it is admission areas that were filling up. The field hospital beds have never been full and even today we have not filled Nasrec. However the trends are now decreasing but we are not out of the woods yet,” said Mkhize.

The Minister was speaking during a virtual briefing on Wednesday where he provided an update on the country’s efforts to fight the Coronavirus.

To determine if the country is indeed on the brink of decline, the Minister said key indicators such as hospital admissions, hospital capacity and the mortality rate must be taken into account.

Mkhize said despite the surge, the country has not breached hospital capacity; has a low mortality rate and has seen reduced hospital admissions and patients under investigation presenting in health facilities.

“Whilst we are cautiously optimistic, it is still too early for us to make definite conclusions regarding the observed decline. We need to continue to track all these indicators and ensure that our testing capacity reflects a realist picture of our epidemiological status.

“We will therefore only know for sure when there is a consistent decline over a period,” he said.

As of Tuesday, South Africa recorded 521 318 COVID-19 cases with 345 new COVID-19 related deaths pushing the death to 8 884.

“We are happy that even with the targeted testing approach which we adopted as a department based on the Ministerial Advisory Committee advice, our testing numbers continue to grow. To date we have tested 3 078 202.

“This translates to a testing rate of 51 514 per million population which compares well to global figures,” said the Minister.

As part of improving the records of COVID-19 related deaths in response to reports on excess deaths, the Minister announced that his department now requires that all the sudden deaths and those that occur at home must have specimens taken for COVID-19 before a death certificate is issued.

Mkhize said while containment measures such as the wearing of masks, sanitizing of hands and social distancing are working, the risk of experiencing a second wave remains a possibility.

“The containment measures being implemented are assisting however, we must not be complacent.

“The real risk of experiencing the ‘second wave’ of the pandemic remains, so containment measures must never be abandoned,” he said.

Until the country is completely safe, the Minister said government will keep reviewing restrictions and, if necessary certain restrictions will still remain in place.

Following Wednesday’s update, the Health Minster said he will be tabling recommendations to the National Coronavirus Command Council on the way forward.

“We will be tabling recommendations to the National Coronavirus Command Council and therefore at some point during the course of next week we should be able to get further guidance from the national Command Council and the President,” he said.

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