Health Minister Zweli Mkhize has updated the confirmed number of Covid-19 infections to 709, a 28% increase from Tuesday. The number of Covid-19 cases in South Africa has increased by 155 more cases within 24 hours, health minister Zweli Mkhize said on Wednesday morning.
The biggest increases in reported cases since Tuesday are in Gauteng (64), Western Cape (61), KwaZulu Natal (11) and Free State (15), he said in an interview on SABC.
The minister said the concentration of cases around Mangaung in Free State was a worry, and the Red Cross was helping the health department trace people who had been at a church gathering attended by five travellers from overseas who tested positive for the disease.
“This is an area of great concern,” he said, describing Mangaung as an emerging epicentre.
There are also clusters of Covid-19 in Sandton, Ekurhuleni, Tshwane and Cape Town, he said.
The main source of the disease remained travellers from European countries, but there was as growing number of cases of internal transmission, he said.
Speaking to the SABC on Wednesday, he said the Free State jumped because of 30 confirmed cases from a church in Bloemfontein. However, Gauteng has remained the epicentre of the outbreak.
The Jerusalem Prayer Breakfast hosted by the Divine Restoration Ministries in Bloemfontein saw five Covid-19-infected foreigners from the US, Israel and France taking part. Government is still looking for some of the 300 people who were there.
ACDP leader Kenneth Meshoe, ACDP MP Steve Swart and pastor Angus Buchan attended, and all three have been tested.
President Cyril Ramaphosa’s spokesperson, Khusela Diko, said Meshoe was among the leaders of political parties represented in Parliament who had met Ramaphosa in Cape Town last Tuesday.
Meshoe would therefore also have been with the leaders of other major parties, including the EFF’s Julius Malema and interim DA leader John Steenhuisen.
“We are looking at refining the definition of those who get tested for coronavirus,” said the health minister, adding that there were no doubt many more infections in the country. He conceded that the cost of the test was “very high”, at about R1,400 in the private sector, and that the delay in testing was being caused by having to move testing samples around the country to private labs.
Government was negotiating with private labs to lower the cost of the tests, with the minister saying it was unacceptable for anyone to be “profiteering” during a health crisis.
He clarified that the latest figures were from about 8pm on Tuesday.
“The [testing and results] delay has shortened. We’re trying to reduce the lag. The other issue is that the numbers of people who test is from the numbers of people who go to the doctor to test, and how fast the labs can test.” He added that the policy was not to test people on demand.
“We’re doing tests on the basis of symptoms.”
Government had already clarified this month that people wanting a test despite not showing any symptoms would have to pay for it themselves.
The minister was encouraged by the fact that five patients had gone from positive to negative within a short space of time and the country was yet to record its first coronavirus-related fatality. He also said most patients were showing signs of recovery, and only two people were in ICU in hospitals.
Three doctors had tested positive.
About 80% of people contracting the virus would only ever exhibit mild symptoms and would be able to self-isolate and recover successfully at home. He cautioned that treatment would have to be guided by the patient’s doctor.
“There is no cure for this virus. We can only treat the symptoms. Most people will not need any treatment.” He added that there was no evidence that ibuprofen worsened patients’ conditions, while he was aware that people were using chloroquine and other antivirals, though it was too soon to have definitive information on what was being truly effective.
As for a vaccine, numerous countries were making strides in developing one, though it was unlikely to be available anytime soon. Minister of Higher Education Blade Nzimande said on Tuesday that South African researchers had started on creating a vaccine, but it could take as long as 18 months.
The health minister told the SABC he was not aware of a “second virus” starting to kill people. The question may have related to reports of a death in China caused by the hantavirus. He said that the country was entering the regular flu season, which would complicate the health sector’s efforts to battle Covid-19.
He added that it was essential that people be prevented from taking public transport, including taxis, trains and buses, during the 21-day lockdown.
“For the three weeks, people who must move must not be moving in the way we normally do.”
Globally, there were more than 420,000 recorded globally on Wednesday morning, with nearly 19,000 fatalities and about 110,000 recoveries.