Minister of Health Zweli Mkhize announced on Friday morning in Bloemfontein that Covid-19 cases in SA had gone up to 202. The Free State now had seven cases and only three provinces are yet to report infections.
In a subsequent statement on Friday afternoon, the cases were broken down as follows:
GAUTENG – 33
· A 33-year-old male who travelled to the United Kingdom and France
· A 32-year-old female with pending travel history
· A 56-year-old male who travelled to Switzerland
· A 56-year-old female who travelled to Switzerland
· A 34-year-old female who travelled to the United Kingdom and Austria · A 34-year-old male who travelled to Austria
· A 27-year-old male with pending travel history
· A 22-year-old female who travelled to the United Kingdom
· A 31-year-old male with pending travel history
· A 52-year-old female who travelled to the United Kingdom
• A 54-year-old male who travelled to London
• A 53-year-old male who travelled to Austria and Switzerland · A 32-year-old female with pending travel history
· A 33-year-old male with pending travel history
· A 52-year-old male with pending travel history
· A 20-year-old male with pending travel history
· A 37-year-old male with pending travel history
· A 47-year-old female with pending travel history
· A 23-year-old male with no international travel history
· A 32-year-old male with pending travel history
· A 21-year-old male with pending travel history
· A 34-year-old female with pending travel history
· A 40-year-old female with pending travel history
· A 41-year-old male with pending travel history
· A 2-year-old male with pending travel history
· A 39-year-old male with pending travel history
· A 58-year-old male with pending travel history
· A 56-year-old male who travelled to the United States of America · A 28-year-old male with pending travel history
· A 67-year-old male who travel to the United Kingdom
· An 11-year-old male who travelled to Spain
· A 30-year-old male who travelled to the United States of America · A 53-year-old male who travelled to the United Kingdom
FREE STATE- 7
· A 38-year-old male who travelled to France
· A 54-year-old male with pending travel history · A 55-year-old male who travelled to France
· A 52-year-old male who travelled to Israel
· A 68-year-old male who travelled to Israel
· A 74-year-old male with pending travel history · A 32-year-old male with pending travel history
WESTERN CAPE – 11
· A 31-year-old female who travelled to the United Kingdom
· A 34-year-old who travelled to the Netherlands
· A 26-year-old who travelled to who travelled to the Netherlands
· A 29-year-old with pending travel history
· A 69-year-old male who travelled to Switzerland and Dubai
· A 58-year-old who travelled to the United Kingdom, Austria and Tanzania
· A 23-year-old male who travelled to the United Kingdom and Germany
· A 43-year-old female who travelled to Canada and Austria
· A 60-year-old male who travelled to Saudi Arabia, the United Kingdom, Switzerland and Austria
· A 62-year-old who travelled to the United Kingdom, Austria and Switzerland · A 63-year-old male who travelled to the United Kingdom and Italy
KWAZULU NATAL – 1
· A 29-year-old female with pending travel history
The statement said that in future, all results would be released in a form of an Excel spreadsheet, reflecting all confirmed cases, the latest numbers per province, the gender, age group and the plot epicurve.
“The rate of spread of the infection is increasing. However, this should not prompt a panic response,” said Mkhize. “We must inform the public that it is projected that the virus could affect 60% of citizens in the future. It must be emphasised that most South Africans will only experience mild symptoms and humans are capable of developing immunity to the virus. What is of paramount importance is strive to flatten the curve, by slowing down the rate of spread.”
He said that in the Free State, “certain dynamics” had prompted a specialised response to the outbreak in the province.
“Five travellers – two from Texas, two from Israel and one from France – entered the country between 9 and 11 March to participate in a church gathering. They subsequently developed symptoms and were thereafter quarantined in their rooms at the bed and breakfast they were residing in. Since then they have remained quarantined in that B&B and the staff that come into contact with the patients have also been quarantined within the B&B.
“Having learnt from the outbreak of Daegu and the situation of the Princess Diamond ship, it is necessary to treat the entire congregation of this particular church gathering as a high risk situation. As such, a call has been made for all members of this congregation who were present at the church conference to co-operate and collaborate in a process that will ensure that up to 600 tests can be done for all individuals who came into contact with these patients.
“To aid the demands of this exercise, the Red Cross has stepped in by offering 282 volunteers who will assist with tracing the contacts. The National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD) will deploy a mobile testing unit with all necessary devices needed to conduct the test. This crucial intervention is acknowledged.”
He said two cases related to Brandwag Primary School in Bloemfontein.
“One is a case of a parent who visited Italy and subsequently tested positive – this patient is under self-quarantine.
“The second parent is a healthcare worker who works in various private institutions. She has two children attending the school who have developed symptoms. The children have been tested. Results are still pending. The mother and children are under self-quarantine.”
Mkhize met with the Brandwag school community to give them an assurance that government would take all the necessary steps to ensure the safety of the learners and teachers.
“At present all children have been educated on the signs, symptoms and health preventative measures. Should the aforementioned children of the Covid-19-positive patients test positive, all the necessary contact tracing and testing will be done for affected learners, teachers and community members.
“We call on all parents and caregivers to invest in the education of their children on Covid-19 with accurate information and teaching of good healthy lifestyles and hygienic practice.”
The minister had earlier in the day told media that although government was calling for people to pray, prayer alone would not be enough to combat the spread of the virus, and people should avoid getting together to pray, but rather do so in their own homes or controlled spaces.
He said he’d met with the director of the Red Cross internationally, which has a presence in South Africa, and they would work with government in supporting the fight against the virus. He said the organisation already had experience in fighting Covid-19 in China and Europe.
The World Health Organisation had declared Europe the new epicentre of the infection. South Africa’s infections had largely come from Europe, said Mkhize.
During a question-and-answer session with doctors in Pretoria, Mkhize had echoed statistics that have now become commonly expressed globally, including by German chancellor Angela Merkel, who earlier this month predicted that as much as 70% of German citizens would contract Covid-19, caused by the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2.
Mkhize told the doctors that 60% to 70% of South Africa are likely to contract the virus, though hopefully over a more extended period of time than would happen if containment measures were not in place.
Mkhize reassured South Africans again on Friday not to panic and the measures in place would spread out the rate of infection and most people would recover without treatment.
“Sixty to 70% of the communities will be affected by this virus,” he said last night. “So I said to the religious leaders that most of us will get this virus.”
He was referring to his meeting earlier in the day with the heads of major churches in South Africa.
Mkhize also repeated the statistic that only about 20% of these cases would be serious enough to require treatment. The fatality rate is between 2% and 3.5%.
He predicted a jump to more than 200 confirmed cases by Friday morning, which proved accurate, and that South Africa will be able to radically increase its testing capacity soon.
The expert consensus has been that a vaccine or might only be available by sometime next year, though an effective treatment is likely to come far earlier; the tactic of having people self-quarantine and keep their distance from each other is to ensure that citizens don’t all get the illness at the same time, thereby overwhelming the health system’s capacity and ability to deal with infections and treatment, popularly known as “flattening the curve”.
South Africa has adopted the same strategy, though a more comprehensive lockdown may be required.
Mkhize said on Friday: “We must mobilise to fight infections. We must flatten the curve. Simple hygiene is key to fighting Covid-19. Please heed the call to follow precautionary measures.”
He recognised that as many as 90% of tests were being done through the private sector, and government was relying on all recognised experts in beating the virus.
He poured cold water on reports that government was trying to control the flow of information and centralise it. He said the media should, by contrast, actually reach out to all recognised experts in both government and private health care, as well as in recognised scientific fields, to spread accurate information as far as possible.
“However, it is important to speak with one voice, not spreading any fake news, for the survival of the whole nation.”
Earlier, in a statement on Thursday afternoon, the health department confirmed that the Free State province was now newly affected, with those numbers yet to be added.
Mkhize added that it was pleasing that they were now seeing recoveries of previously reported Covid-19 cases.
“We are in the process of conducting further confirmation tests and medical examinations then we formally inform the public on the numbers of recoveries. At this stage, most of the patients are recovering well.”
No deaths have yet been reported.
The department said that Mkhize held an urgent teleconference with the CEOs of the private laboratories performing the Covid-19 tests.
At this meeting, the private laboratories expressed their commitment and willingness to “work hand in hand with government to perform the tests”.
“The meeting acknowledged that in order to allow for consistent reporting of cases, all information will be sent to the NICD in real time. There will be collaboration and proper compilation of the results, thereafter it will be released to the public.”
The health department added that Western Cape Health MEC Dr Mbombo informed the minister that she, together with her ministry staff, had gone into self-quarantine as a precaution after she came into contact with the French Consul-General who had earlier announced that he had tested positive.
“The MEC is feeling strong and has not exhibited any symptoms. She is now waiting to receive her results that will determine her way forward. We wish her well as we know that she has been criss-crossing the Western Cape province to ensure the state of preparedness of our health facilities for Covid-19 patients requiring admission.”
Following the expansion of national-wide routine testing for SARS-CoV-2 in public and private laboratories, the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD), a division of the National Health Laboratory Service, said it had started to transition to functioning as a reference and surveillance laboratory for Covid-19.
President Cyril Ramaphosa had earlier suggested that a portion of the day be set aside for the nation to “pause for a moment of prayer”, a moment of reflection and as a way of offering solidarity to those affected, afflicted and infected by the coronavirus.
However, he said this was still just a suggestion and that government was open to the “thoughts”, suggestions and proposals that religious leaders could bring forth amid the outbreak of Covid-19.
Ramaphosa encouraged religious leaders to make use of communication tools developed by the department of health that spell out what constitutes hygiene control and what to do to minimise the risk of infection and affirm these “not just in services and gatherings but in your pastoral work”.