NATIONAL NEWS - Health Minister, Dr Zweli Mkhize has said the national government is the only entity tasked with procuring Covid-19 vaccines and not the provincial governments, The Citizen reports.
During a visit to KwaZulu-Natal on Monday, Mkhize said he had discussions with the Western Cape government, which has indicated through its premier, Alan Winde, that it would source more Covid-19 vaccines if it was allowed to.
Mkhize stressed that national government was overseeing the direct procurement of the vaccines to reduce the possibility of fraud and corruption as witnessed previously with Covid-19 related funds and PPE tenders.
National Treasury has granted special deviation for the procurement of Covid-19 vaccines, Mkhize said.
Mkhize said due to complacency during Lockdown Level 1, the resurgence of the virus happened sooner than had been anticipated and that there are indications that in the next two to three weeks there may be a reduction in the number of cases “because of the intensive use of masks, hand washing, sanitisers and distancing”.
The minister said the restrictions put in place under the current Level 3 Lockdown are starting to bare some fruit.
Mkhize said the focus would now be on communicating more information about the vaccines, providing announcements once updates are available, and creating awareness on why it is important to embrace vaccines. At the same time government will focus on dispelling myths and misinformation on vaccines.
Healthcare workers will be prioritised in the rollout of vaccines, followed by teachers, police officers and persons working in overcrowded areas and in communities, including taxi drivers and waiters, among others, Mkhize said.
The minister added that KwaZulu-Natal’s high infection rate was still concerning and that even when these eventually go down, it would take some time for the province’s healthcare system to feel the pressure ease.
The number of patients admitted to private hospitals had increased, which has resulted in some being diverted to public institutions, Mkhize said.
He urged people to go to the hospital as soon as possible once they start experiencing Covid-19 symptoms.
Mkhize paid tribute to and thanked healthcare workers who he said have told him that though they are exhausted and are feeling the pressure, they are still motivated to continue the fight against Covid-19.
KwaZulu-Natal has to ensure that healthcare worker posts are created and filled up, the minister said, adding that coordination between districts on the availability of hospital beds was important, as well as coordination between the private and public healthcare sectors.
The use of oxygen has also increased in KwaZulu-Natal, Mkhize said.
The number of Covid-19 cases has increased in Limpopo and Gauteng, and the minister is expected to visit these areas next.
In the Western Cape, the numbers have increased, but in the past two weeks they have plateaued at high levels and there are indications that the figures could go down.
Funerals are still a major concern to the spread of Covid-19, Mkhize said, further urging people to desist from practising traditions that could expose them to infection, such as rewashing a body at home before burial.
The ban on the sale of alcohol had provided “huge relief” to most major hospitals across the country because the number of trauma cases has gone down, Mkhize said.