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Deputy Health Minister defends hard lockdown as South Africa moves from 5 to 13

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Deputy Health Minister Joe Phaahla has come to the defence of the implementation of the lockdown saying it has managed to move the country from number 5 in the world to number 13.

File image. Picture: REUTERS/Thomas Peter/File Photo

DEPUTY Health Minister Joe Phaahla has come to the defence of the implementation of the lockdown saying it has managed to move the country from number 5 in the world to number 13.

Phaahla also told MPs on Thursday that almost 400 healthcare workers have died in the fight against Covid-19.

Phaahla, who was answering oral questions in Parliament, said the lockdown has enabled the economy to be opened.

But opposition parties said the government had taken too long to open the economy with the hard lockdown.

Phaahla said the lockdown was necessary to ensure the country contained the spread of the virus.

“There has been a lot of progress with these measures. These serious lockdown interventions helped us to be where we are now, from number 5 in the world to number 13,” said Phaahla.

He said the lockdown was brought in to flatten the curve and the government has managed to do this.

This measure was also meant to ensure that the public healthcare system was not overwhelmed with the large number of cases of Covid-19.

“It was to keep it at a low base, which happened. The peak came in not at Level 5, Level 4, but at Level 3,” said Phaahla.

At the time the government had bought time and prepared health facilities for the upsurge in the virus infections.

“At the moment, working with the President, the Cabinet and National Coronavirus Command Council we are monitoring to see if there will be a second wave. We differ with you that we used the sledge hammer approach. It was a necessary sacrifice and we are convinced it was a medium term investment and if you look at countries who did not do what we did, those countries who took half-measures that they will nip the pandemic in the bud, are doing now what we did,” said Phaahla.

Phaahla also told MPs that the government will continue with plans to implement the National Health Insurance.

He said the fight against Covid-19 has laid the foundation for the implementation of the NHI. This was after the government invested in infrastructure.

He said this was an important investment that would allow universal health coverage.

Phaahla also said they would not be able to hire on a full-time basis some of the health workers who were employed during the peak of Covid-19. They were employed temporarily to fight the spread of the virus.

He said they wanted to hire these workers full-time but there was no money available.

South Africa had hired hundreds of health workers to contain the virus after Covid-19 broke out.