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Country is bracing for the worst

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Government preparing to conduct massive testing and treatment campaign

HEALTH Minister, Dr Zweli Mkhize said the country is bracing for the worst as the number of deaths as a result of the covid-19 has climbed to five and the government is preparing to conduct a massive testing and treatment campaign. 


According to Mkhize, KZN has so far recorded two deaths while three were recorded in Gauteng, Western Cape and the Free State. At the same time, the country’s confirmed covid-19 infections keep on rising with Mkhize saying there were 1 353 cases and Gauteng was still the epicentre for the virus with over 600 cases. 


“The number (of deaths) is five, I did say … so those are the numbers that we have, those are confirmed (deaths),” he said. 


Speaking at a briefing which was conducted shortly after the country evacuated six citizens from a luxury cruise vessel that had travelled from Australia, Mkhize said the evacuated South Africans were free of the virus but they would still be subjected to quarantine and testing. 


Mkhize said the latest death in KwaZulu-Natal was of an unnamed 46-year-old woman from Umlazi. Two of the provinces biggest townships, Umlazi in the south of Durban and KwaMashu in the north of the same city have now recorded positive covid-19 cases. 


This comes as the government has started expressing worry that it is beginning to also pick up infections in other densely populated townships like Alexandra in Johannesburg and Khayelitsha in Cape Town. 


In response to the spiralling cases of Covid-19, Mkhize announced that the government will be increasing the testing process across the country. 


“The approach we are going to be taking is that we are going to be unveiling, in the next three days, additional mobile testing vans which would be deployed to a number of provinces, particularly the ones where the problem is the biggest. That is the Western Cape, Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal and Free State … the approach we are taking, as the president has indicated, is we are going to increase the number of field workers who are going to do the tracking and testing,” Mkhize said. 


At the present moment, Mkhize said, the number of field workers are 5 000 and the number would soon be doubled as the government steps up efforts to fight the spread of the virus. At the heart of this increase is teaming up with non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to work with state nurses. 


“We are going to be converting a number of teams that were working on the PEPFAR (President’s Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief) funded NGOs to actually come and give support at this level. A number of NGOs will be working with us in strengthening the support on the increasing of testing,” he announced.


The plan includes going to identified areas and looking for people with symptoms and conducting tests. 


While Mkhize himself said that the country recently experienced challenges with its laboratory capacity, he said they would still able to conduct testing work after the massive testing campaign starts. He said they were able to conduct 3000 tests in a single day and the capacity is being expanded. 


“Our capacity is improving, we are not worried about that, we believe that we are going to be improving the capacity as we move on. That is one aspect, the other aspect is the rapid test kits, we also want to use those as well to add to our own capacity,” he said.