Health Minister, Dr Zweli Mkhize, said on Wednesday during a virtual briefing that, while South Africa is making progress in its fight against the Coronavirus, it is still too early to claim the victory of a decline in Covid-19 cases.
“There were reports that the hospitals were full and we went around confirmed that it is admission areas that were filling up. The field hospital beds have never been full and even today we have not filled Nasrec. However, the trends are now decreasing but we are not out of the woods yet,” said Mkhize.
To determine whether South Africa’s number of Covid-19 infections is really about decline, the minister said that key indicators such as the number of hospital admissions, the hospital’s capacity and the mortality rate must be taken into account.
Mkhize said despite the surge, the country has not breached hospital capacity; has a low mortality rate and has seen reduced hospital admissions and patients under investigation presenting in health facilities.
“Whilst we are cautiously optimistic, it is still too early for us to make definite conclusions regarding the observed decline. We need to continue to track all these indicators and ensure that our testing capacity reflects a realist picture of our epidemiological status.
“We will therefore only know for sure when there is a consistent decline over a period,” he said.
As of the 5th of August, South Africa has recorded 521 318 COVID-19 cases, with 345 new COVID-19 related deaths pushing the death to 8 884.
“We are happy that even with the targeted testing approach which we adopted as a department based on the Ministerial Advisory Committee advice, our testing numbers continue to grow. To date, we have tested 3 078 202.
“This translates to a testing rate of 51 514 per million population which compares well to global figures,” said Mkhize.
As part of improving how COVID-19 related deaths are recorded, in response to reports on excess deaths, the Minister said that his department now requires that all sudden deaths, as well as those that occur at home, must be tested for COVID-19 before a death certificate is issued.
Mkhize said while control measures such as the wearing of masks, sanitizing of hands and social distancing are working, the risk of experiencing a second wave of infection is still possible.
“The real risk of experiencing the ‘second wave’ of the pandemic remains, so containment measures must never be abandoned,” he said.
The Minister went on to say that, Until the country is completely safe, the government will keep reviewing restrictions and, if necessary certain restrictions will still remain in place.
Following Wednesday’s update, the Mkhize said that he will be submitting recommendations to the National Coronavirus Command Council on what the next step should be. The minister ended by saying -
“We will be tabling recommendations to the National Coronavirus Command Council and therefore at some point during the course of next week we should be able to get further guidance from the national Command Council and the President,”