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By News24 Wire

Wire Service

Health Minister Mkhize: ‘We must save our people from hunger and Covid-19’

The government is expected to announce further measures on Monday to relieve the financial pressure on citizens who have lost their jobs and livelihoods as a result of the five-week lockdown.

Health Minister Zweli Mkhize says President Cyril Ramaphosa and his national command council (NCC) debate the balance between securing food supply in South Africa and containing the spreading of Covid-19 daily.

“What is the best way to ensure the balance between the transmission (of the coronavirus) and food supply? There is a huge amount of debate that goes on continuously.”

“We need to contain the virus by reducing the movement of people. We are very conscious how this has a negative impact on the economy and food security. Whatever steps you will hear of in the next few days, you will know that we have taken these two issues into account.”

Mkhize was addressing journalists on Saturday night in the wake of increasing reports of food shortages countrywide.

The pressure on government to distribute food parcels in poor areas has increased dramatically and the South African Social Security Agency (Sassa), that was tasked to provide food relief, has been overburdened.

Mkhize said they were acutely aware of issues around food security and that the government would take decisions “in the best interest of the people”.

The economy was already suffering before the Covid-19 outbreak “and, when we closed our borders, we knew people in the tourism and transport industries would have a problem”, he said.

Mkhize, who is a member of the NCC, said they debated these issues “every day” at meetings that continued for hours; they looked at “all the options to save our people from both hunger and infection. It’s not either or”.

He said it was “tricky” to balance the two issues, but that Ramaphosa was discussing food security with premiers and MECs during a meeting of the president’s coordinating council on Saturday.

Mkhize did not want to speculate on the possibility of an extension of the lockdown, but said this week’s figures would guide the NCC in its decision.

He reported 251 new infections and two new deaths on Saturday.

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