Covid-19 infections rise by 251 to 3,034, with 2 new deaths

The health minister revealed on Saturday that, on average, one person tests positive in SA for every 38 tests conducted.

In a media briefing on Saturday night, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize announced that the number of people who have contracted Covid-19 in South Africa has passed the 3,000 mark, to reach 3,034. Deaths have risen by two, to 52.

KwaZulu-Natal has had the most deaths, 21. The Western Cape has seen 16 deaths.

In Gauteng, confirmed infections stood at 1,101.

In the rest of the country the breakdown was as follows:

Western Cape: 836
KZN: 604
Eastern Cape: 270
Free State: 100
North West: 24
Mpumalanga: 25
Northern Cape: 16
Unallocated: 32

He added later that 241 patients were in various hospital in the country, with 162 of them admitted to private hospitals and 79 to public hospitals. He said 137 were in isolation, 36 were in ICU and 23 had to be placed on ventilators.

More than 108,000 tests have been done, with the number of public tests reaching more than 5,000 a day.

Mkhize said more than 900 people have already recovered from the disease, with more expected to do so too soon.

The department took time to ensure the recoveries were certain, and for this reason the figure could not be updated every day.

Mkhize said the country was still far short of where it wanted to be with testing, and it could be expected that there would be big jumps in the infection total once more testing was done.

Nearly 900,000 people have been screened now, and about 11,000 people were referred to be tested. Only people showing symptoms or who are reasonably believed to have come into contact with an infected person are being tested at this stage, government has previously clarified.

He explained that data around what the daily rate of infections is was not yet available, but “indications are at an average 90 to 95 average daily infection rate”.

As for what would determine when the current lockdown would be ended or eased, Mkhize said there was no one factor that would be used for making that decision. “All the factors will be taken together. Health considerations, business, crime prevention, social issues, education, school…”

The minister expressed his support for the current ban on alcohol sales, as alcohol consumption in the normal course of events, particularly on weekends, put a lot of pressure on hospitals and their staff, who would be needed to focus on fighting Covid-19.

The department has steadily been increasing the number of field beds for those who can’t self-isolate at home.

Mkhize said that the conundrum of how to balance the needs of the economy, income and food supply with fighting the virus was something that was discussed daily by the National Command Council.

“We are conscious that the need to stop people moving has a cost on the economy and food security. It’s a balance that’s always going to be tricky.” He said there were long discussions into the night about how to save people from both the virus and hunger.

“Government will have to take decisions in the interests of our people. People will have to be assisted with food.”

He admitted that the difficulty was that the economy was already struggling before the lockdown, but the lockdown had struck a major blow.

“There is a whole debate about food parcels. Is this the best way? Or is there another way. As time goes along, we’re going to have to look at how to balance that.”

In a press statement on Saturday, the health department said that testing for the coronavirus in South Africa’s public health sector had been ramped up significantly, with more than 5,000 citizens being tested for the virus per day.

“This marks a drastic increase in the past two weeks – indicating that government interventions in the testing and screening of potential patients are showing results.”

Mkhize’s announcement that 108,021 people had been tested for Covid-19 was not the total number of tests that have been completed.

“There is a stark difference between the number of tests conducted and the number of people who have been tested. This is because it sometimes takes more than one test to confirm a diagnosis and multiple tests can be conducted on one person during their period of treatment.”

Mkhize therefore confirmed that more than 123,000 tests had thus far been completed.

“We have been increasing the number of people being tested. When we started, 98% of tests were being done in the private sector. About two weeks ago, in the public sector, we could have been testing up to 1,000 tests per day,” Mkhize said.

“But as time went on, we have come to a point where we are testing more than 5,000 per day. Today, in the last 24 hours, we have done 7,194 tests …We have to keep pushing the number up.”

South Africa had now surpassed many European countries in its number of tests.

“Statistics now suggest that one person tests positive for every 38 tests conducted.”

Watch the Zoom media briefing below.

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