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COVID-19 quick insight - 31 March 2020

After days of lockdown, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said that while the coronavirus infections were increasing, they were not at the level that government models had predicted.

Gauteng healthcare workers screening Alexandra residents for coronavirus (COVID-19) on 31 March 2020 following the roll out of massive community screenings and testing programmes by the provincial executive council. Picture: Ahmed Kajee/EWN.

CAPE TOWN - After days of lockdown, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said that while the coronavirus infections were increasing, they were not at the level that government models had predicted.

DAY 5 OF LOCKDOWN

BY THE NUMBERS
• Confirmed cases of COVID-19 now stand at 1,353 with 46 new cases.

• 633 in GP; 325 in Western Cape, 179 in KwaZulu-Natal, 74 in Free State, 8 in the North West, 12 in Mpumalanga, 14 in Limpopo; 12 in the Eastern Cape; 6 in the Northern Cape.

• 90 results are listed as unallocated – that means the tests are not attached to an address. The Health Department has now sent letters to all the labs to tell them to ensure they include all details on the testing forms.

• Total number of patients tested so far – 39,500.

• 5 deaths so far.

• Many of the patients are doing well.

HEALTH MINISTER ON THE TREND
• Everything we are doing right now is about flattening the curve – slowing the spread of the infection. Government is working on complex models, that predict the spread of the virus. Similar models have been used across the world to ascertain when to launch major public health response or a lockdown.

• The health minister said that the current rate of increase of the numbers was not as sharp as they thought it would be.

• In terms of models government is working off, they had been anticipating 4,000-5,000 confirmed infections by 2 April.

• VERY IMPORTANT: It is still too early to infer from this that the interventions are working – however, it’s interesting to note.

• Health minister attributes this lower-than-expected number to, amongst other things, the rapid closure of ports of entry – because at the stage that they did close those down, most of the cases were imported.

• Now it’s about keeping on top of the infection rate, and ensuring community infections don’t pop up.

HEALTH MINISTER: DEFENCE BECOMES OFFENCE
• Additional mobile testing units are going to Gauteng, the Western Cape, the Free State and KZN.

• 10,000 field workers – community health workers, nurses and NGO staff will be helping screen and test.

• They will be very targeted – focusing on hotspots – every patient who is positive has been plotted on a map, they will go to those areas and triage rapidly, search for people with symptoms, test, quarantine, isolate and treat where necessary.

• The minister says it’s early days, but he feels that we’re not far behind the infection – the important thing now will be to jump on any possible localised outbreaks as soon as possible.

• Also a warning that when the lockdown is over, we won’t simply go back to normal. There will be a gradual process of normalisation, to ensure the virus doesn’t resurge; combined with intense monitoring and testing.

WATCH: Ministers give an update on day 5 of COVID-19 lockdown

SOCIAL SERVICES
• Minister Lindiwe Zulu thanked community workers who helped without being asked – assisting the elderly and disabled.

• Day one of social grant payouts started well, but then went a little off the rails, with cash not arriving until later in the day in some places, and not enough cash arriving in some places.

• They miscalculated the amount of money that was needed on day one – the minister took full responsibility for it – said they scrambled to get the Reserve Bank to ensure they could get enough cash to the various points to help as many as possible on day one.

• The situation improved from day one to day two.

• Every month government disburses R10.2 billion in grants, R3.8 billion was paid out on Day 1 (Monday).

LABOUR
• Labour Minister Thulas Nxesi noted that some employers were compelling employees to take their leave over the lockdown period. While he acknowledged it was within an employer's right to do so, government discouraged it - as “this is a unique situation that requires we all act in a manner that promotes social solidarity”.

• You absolutely cannot force your staff to come into work unless you are essential services - some companies are doing that, they are being tracked and will be prosecuted.

PUBLIC TRANSPORT
• The Minister of Transport met with the taxi industry yesterday, and will brief on the outcomes, and new directives on 1 April.

• All passenger flights are still prohibited – except for flights to evacuate South Africans.

• Repatriation of foreigners in SA is allowed on condition that foreign countries must charter the flights to SA with no other passengers, the crew is not allowed to disembark.

• Evacuation of SA citizens who want to come home is allowed on condition that he/she has a fully paid return flight, on arrival they will be quarantined for up to 21 days, the crew will be allowed to disembark but will be subject to quarantine too.

• All air cargo is now allowed – crews who disembark will be subjected to quarantine rule; all cargo gets sanitised.

• Seaports are the same.

DIRCO
• There are 1,471 South Africans stranded overseas - most of them are students.

• An appeal to all those South Africans who can afford to foot the bill for their return home, to do so, with the promise that they will be assisted with logistics.

• DIRCO’s looking at what can be done to help some of the South Africans left stranded in the wake of the lockdown.

• Priority will given to those who have to sleep on floor in airports, to students who are stranded, the elderly and vulnerable, and those who don’t have the money to arrange accommodation or a flight home.