NATIONAL NEWS - Health Minister, Zweli Mkhize says while the Eastern Cape has stabilised, the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic is cause for concern for residents of Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal.
On Sunday, South Africa breached the 1 million mark of confirmed Covid-19 cases in the country.
The Minister was speaking on SABC’s Morning Live in the wake of this development and amid mounting fears about stricter lockdown regulations being imposed to contain the spread of the virus.
“In many countries, this wave has been more severe than the first one,” said Mkhize about the second wave of the pandemic.
“Right now, we are in the middle of it. It is important for people to take this seriously. It started with the Eastern Cape then Western Cape, now KZN and Gauteng following suit.”
He said that festive season laxness was contributing to the spread of the virus.
“People are meeting in crowded places, having parties, and forgetting their masks. These are things that worsen the situation.”
He said the situation in the Eastern Cape, which contains two Covid-19 hotspots, had been serious.
“Private hospitals had filled up before the public hospitals. The testing was delaying and the shortage of staff needed to be attended to,” said Mkhize.
“Changes were made, this assisted to ease the situation. The trends now in the Eastern cape seem to be stabilising. We are however still monitoring the situation,” he noted.
Mkhize also commented on plans to roll out a vaccine in the country, confirming that the deposit paid to the COVAX funding facility will provide vaccines for only 10% of the population.
“The problem in SA is that we have constraints in terms of financial resources,” said Mkhize.
“Our first target when the vaccines are available are the vulnerable and healthcare workers. We will update closer to the arrival of the vaccine.”
On the new strain of Covid-19, which was first found in the Nelson Mandela Bay metro in South Africa, Mkhize said it was now driving most new infections.
“The level of transmissibility is a bit higher, so more people are getting infected. The one in SA can be distinguished from the one in the UK, however, the variant is similar.”
He noted: “Whatever the variant is, it is the same virus. Mask wearing, social distancing, washing hands, and sanitising is still important. The treatment is still effective too.
“The message for us is, yes it’s raising concerns as it’s a variant, but we shouldn’t panic. The basic measures we have been taking must continue.”
The Minister would not speculate about the possibility of new lockdown regulations being put in place, but said: “Anyone who says Covid-19 is not a serious issue, are those who have not come into contact with someone who has had the virus.”
Watch the interview with Mkhize below, courtesy of the SABC: