The South African government is set to intensify testing for the Coronavirus in the country in an effort to contain and limit its spread across the country.
Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said it is through increased testing that the government will have reliable data that will allow for it to adequately respond to the outbreak.
“We are intensifying our testing mechanism. This is to make sure that we have reliable data and this becomes important because it is data that tells us the severity of the disease,” he said.
Mkhize was speaking on Monday at a briefing by various Ministers to unpack government’s interventions to curb the increasing number of COVID-19 infections.
The briefing followed President Cyril Ramaphosa’s declaration of the virus as a national disaster on Sunday following an urgent Cabinet meeting. South Africa has recorded 62 COVID-19 cases, as of Monday.
Minister Mkhize urged South Africans to get into gear as government calls for “hard combat” against the Coronavirus outbreak in the country.
”We have seen the cases rise quite quickly. This is an explosive rise of cases. We, therefore, need to get into the gear of what we call ‘hard combat’ which means every South African is a soldier, we are determined to suffer as few casualties as possible,” said the Minister.
He emphasised that while it was only a matter of time until the virus spreads rapidly across the country, of importance is the containment of the disease, particularly to underprivileged communities.
“What we want to do is contain it so that it doesn’t overwhelm the health services. Community mobilisation is important so we believe that the best way to succeed is to ensure that everybody understands and therefore plays their role in the prevention of the infection,” said the Health Minister.
State of readiness for hospitals
With the number of cases increasing in the country, the capacity of the country’s health system came into sharp focus at Monday’s briefing.
There are 87 309 hospital beds in the country but with COVID-19, only 15% of people who contract Coronavirus are hospitalised.
Mkhize said the government will in the coming weeks observe the trajectory of the spread of the virus and will respond based on its development.
With gatherings limited to 100 people, Arts, Culture and Sports Minister Nathi Mthethwa announced that his department will meet members of religious groups, and the sport and art fraternity on Tuesday to discuss how to mitigate the spread of the virus.
International Relations Minister Naledi Pandor pleaded with the public to assist the government in implementing the newly announced restrictions.
“With respect to places of worship, we are appealing the public to respond and assist our country … We don’t wish at any point to enforce mass separation. We call on each of the religious groupings in South Africa to respond to this call,” she said.
Repatriation from Wuhan
On the repatriation of South Africans from Wuhan City, in China, Mkhize said four South African citizens had chosen to remain behind because they displayed some symptoms of the Coronavirus.
A total of 104 South Africans were repatriated on Saturday.
They will now be under quarantine for 21 days at The Ranch Hotel, in Polokwane along with the crew members who assisted in the repatriation.