Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize has reflected on the year since the first case of Covid-19 was detected in South Africa, saying it was extremely difficult and saw a lot of devastation and death. However, the minister says he is encouraged by the unity displayed by South Africans amid the pandemic.
Speaking at a webinar on Thursday evening hosted by the National Press Club and the Government Communications and Information System, Mkhize remembered the more than 50,000 people who have lost their lives to Covid-19.
He accepted an award from the National Press Club, which named the coronavirus pandemic the newsmaker for 2020, saying it was for all South Africans fighting against the pandemic.
“It has been a tumultuous year. I believe this award is for all the South Africans out there fighting Covid-19, the health workers, and all those who have had to endure the difficulties of the pandemic. We accept it on the basis that we all understand that those are the people that this award is honouring,” Mkhize said.
“We also take a moment to remember the 50,000 people who have lost their lives to Covid-19 in our country and we urge everyone to continue taking the required precautions such as wearing a mask in public and regular hand and surface sanitising.”
“I think there is a bit of hope now when we start the processes of vaccination. And we really hope that one of these days, we’ll look back and say we can now take back control of our lives and that we have defeated the virus. And we can get back to our normal lives, build our economy and make sure that our people are able to go about with their daily activities without the restrictions and the constraints that we have got,” he said.
The minister said the behaviour of South Africans would determine when the country will experience the third Covid-19 wave.
He said there was no clear model predicting when this would happen, but it could be in late April or early May.
“We need to understand that while we may not be able to predict accurately when the next surge is coming, it may well come when we have huge movement of people coming during the public meetings or during the Easter weekend, or during the Easter holidays when people are moving up and down. That might have an impact as well.
“We will be observing to see what is happening at that time,” Mkhize said.
Mkhize also said more vaccines were due to arrive on home soil in the coming weeks, with about 1.1 million Covid-19 shots expected before the end of March.