South Africa’s net death rate has decreased during the Covid-19 pandemic over the past five weeks – despite the 186 deaths thus far.
This was one of the key points disclosed by Health Minister Zweli Mkhize on Saturday during a press briefing with Western Cape Premier Alan Winde and Health MEC Nomafrench Mbombo.
The net drop in the national death rate was due to dramatic reductions in deaths from “inter-personal violence”, Mkhize explained.
This included far fewer shootings, stabbings and gang violence.
He explained that there had also been a reduction in road deaths, and “less pressure” on medical facilities.
Mkhize confirmed that South Africa has 9,420 coronavirus cases, with the Western Cape being the biggest contributor to these numbers.
He warned those living in cities across the country that they may have to brace themselves for stricter restrictions for longer, as all metros were currently coronavirus hotspots.
There would be no “one-size-fits-all” approach to these lockdown restrictions. Instead, every area would be assessed in terms of their specific risk profiles, Mkhize said.
Asked why the Western Cape had significantly more Covid-19 infections than the rest of the country, Mkhize said one of the features of the pandemic in the province was the outbreak in “clusters” of infections. These were primarily in factories and busy retail areas.
Mbombo said the provincial government had developed a new “supermarket etiquette” to guide the behaviour of both shop owners and their customers.
Mkhize said he had been thoroughly briefed on the Western Cape government’s plans and was “satisfied”.
He suggested political dynamics between the ANC and the DA-led Western Cape government would play no role in resource allocation, saying the province’s outbreak was considered “an outbreak in South Africa”, and all national resources would be made available to fight it.
Mkhize said government wants those who have tested positive, but are asymptomatic, to be hospitalised, not necessarily for treatment, but to keep them from infecting other people.
Equally, those who had been in contact with positive cases would need to be quarantined, the minister maintained. If they were not able to self-isolate in their homes, they would have to accept being quarantined at state facilities. A doctor would make this determination, after inspecting such persons’ homes.
Mkhize said South Africa was being hamstrung in its efforts to ramp up testing further due to the global shortage of testing kits.
Winde said the provincial government had adopted a “whole of government” approach to “hotspots” and would deploy staff from multiple departments, and all necessary state agencies, to tackle the pandemic. This to ensure the pandemic did not “explode” in these areas.