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Health Minister Mkhize explains SA's low COVID-19 mortality rate

The minister said he was confident that KZN was even prepared for a higher number of COVID-19 cases than expected.

FILE: Health Minister Zweli Mkhize briefing the media on 16 March 2020 on plans by government to curb the spread of the coronavirus in South Africa. Picture: Sethembiso Zulu/EWN

JOHANNESBURG - Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said that the COVID-19 mortality rate in the country was low because patients with the virus were separated in hospitals.

Mkhize is currently in KwaZulu-Natal inspecting health facilities.

This as the province is expected to have a surge in active cases, becoming the province with the most cases.

Minister Mkhize is on a two-day visit to the province to assess its readiness as a peak in infections is expected to hit the province in the coming weeks.

KwaZulu-Natal has seen its daily infections pass those of the Western Cape and Gauteng.

The minister said that with the coming storm, the province needed to have enough beds and ensure they had as few deaths as possible.

"Those with symptoms that were suggestive of COVID-19 should be separated and tested and those who don't have symptoms must be moved to other areas so that we avoid the mixing of patients. That's partly why we're not seeing a huge mortality rate."

The minister said that bed occupancy had been low in the province and he was optimistic they would have enough space for those who required it.

While wrapping up his oversight visit to the province, the health minister said that Amajuba District in KwaZulu-Natal had adequate bed provision ahead of the expected surge in COVID-19 cases in the coming weeks.

The minister said he was confident that KZN was prepared for a higher number of COVID-19 cases than expected.

“Having been in this region, I’m quite comfortable that there is adequate bed provision, which we will need should the surge in the number of cases materialise in higher numbers,” Mkhize said.

Mkhize said he had also spoken to the National Health Laboratory Service and the backlog of test results should be cleared by Friday to allow for quicker turnaround time.

“When someone has got flu-like symptoms we must quickly decide whether they need to be treated in a COVID-positive area or not,” he said.

HEALTH WORKERS’ PREPAREDNESS

At the same time, Mkhize said health workers who were at the frontline in the fight against COVID-19 should be equipped with everything they needed to do their jobs.

The minister said that the country was in a war and the health workers were vital to combating the spread of the disease.

Doctors, nurses, and community health workers were like warriors in a war, and this time the enemy was COVID-19, Mkhize said.

He said that hospital administrators and management during this time needed to be top-notch.

“We have also sent the message to the administration that when management is going to be lax, they must take strong action,” Mkhize said.

The minister said where there are challenges, health workers should speak out so that they could be assisted.

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