Health Minister Zweli Mkhize. Picture: Phill Magakoe/Pool Photo via AP
Health Minister Zweli Mkhize. Picture: Phill Magakoe/Pool Photo via AP

Covid-19 war command prepares for virus battle

By Siviwe Feketha and Shannon Ebrahim Time of article published Mar 25, 2020

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Johannesburg - The coronavirus war command team headed by Health Minister Zweli Mkhize has outlined stringent and strategic measures for the 21-day lockdown aimed at flattening the killer disease curve.

Mkhize warned that the country would not be able to curb the spread of the sinister coronavirus if people refused to change their individual behaviour in their homes.

This comes as the country prepares for the nationwide lockdown effect from midnight tomorrow.

On Tuesday, the health minister outlined the strategic objectives for the lockdown which would last until April 16, with other ministers clarifying what their respective departments would do to fight the spread of the disease and soften its impact on the economy.

The lockdown would see most businesses closing and most workers restricted to their homes as part of a nationwide effort to flatten the rising coronavirus curve.

The ministers spelt out the multi-pronged strategies on a day that the number of infections in South Africa reached 554 people.

Mkhize warned that the Covid-19 pandemic spread could go up three times more in the next two weeks of lockdown. “I am just saying we must not be shocked when we see the numbers increase, but these measures if we all work together must turn the curve around but it will not happen tomorrow.

“It won’t happen next week. It should take us a couple of weeks before we see a turnaround,” he said.

Mkhize also drew particular attention to the four-day church meeting held from March 9 to 14 by the Divine Restoration Ministries in Bloemfontein, at which 300 people attended.

Five of the seven visitors from abroad who attended the church gathering have tested positive for the coronavirus and Mkhize was calling for all of those who attended the gathering to urgently contact the Department of Health.

The minister also issued a stern warning to those who failed to comply to such a call, saying: “If a person does not give their details when asked, they can go to prison for up to 10 years, and we will make a public announcement and disclose their name.”

He praised religious leaders in the country for cancelling their gatherings and also acknowledged that the number of those infected with Covid-19 worldwide, which stood at 382000 on Tuesday, was much higher than initially thought with Italy having the highest number of infections, followed by the US, Spain, Germany, Iran, France, South Korea, Switzerland and the UK.

Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation Minister Lindiwe Sisulu in the meantime said that her department had already put in place measures to ensure that adherence to hygiene and cleanliness took place even in poor and densely populated communities, especially those that did not have adequate water supply.

“We have so far identified 2000 communities and additionally 2101 sites where we will be able to provide water facilities, especially to those areas, that have just come out of the drought and those areas that are in the rural areas,” Sisulu said.

She added that the government would be availing a R1.2 billion funding package to ensure sustainable food production post the coronavirus pandemic, including the production of vegetables and other proteins required.

“I appeal to the public, as I have already indicated, that we are self-sufficient at the moment and therefore there is no need to embark on panic buying. “Panic buying will only cause disruption and inconvenience in the food system,” Didiza cautioned.

Bedelia Swartz, speaking on behalf of Makro in Crown Mines, where there were long queues just to enter the store, said the branch had sufficient stock to service consumers, and there was no need to panic buy. “We should be able to see this through. We have enough stock.

“We are controlling the lines with senior managers stationed at the front door to ensure there isn’t a rush,” Swartz said. Reacting to packed Pick n Pay stores, David North, the company’s group executive for strategy and corporate affairs, said it supported the lockdown measures, which were announced by Ramaphosa on Monday night, and would maintain food and grocery supplies.

North added that the company was “well-stocked” and that its stores would be kept hygienic. “Our staff are on the front line in continuing to work and serve customers during this crisis.

“They will be critical in ensuring our stores stay open and that people can buy their groceries. “We are giving them every support, and asking the public to do the same,” North added.

Political Bureau

* For the latest on the Covid-19 outbreak visit IOL's #Coronavirus trend page.

** If you think you have been exposed to the Covid-19 virus, please call the 24-hour hotline on 0800 029 999

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