‘SA's public health system won’t cope with coronavirus’ - opposition
Deputy Minister of Health Joe Phaahla told the joint sitting of the National Assembly and National Council of Provinces there was no need to press panic buttons on the coronavirus (Covid-19) as the government was on top of the situation.
He said there were similarities between TB and coronavirus transmission, which include coughing, droplets and the shaking of hands.
While TB was curable, there was no vaccine for coronavirus.
“Chairperson, I thought that with all the panic around the coronavirus, which is understandable because it is a novel disease, I should point to the similarities between this old disease, which we are talking about today, TB, and the new one, which is Covid-19,” said Phaahla.
He said when he was in Limpopo this week with Health Minister Zweli Mkhize and other senior government officials to prepare for the return of South Africans from Wuhan, they met with Zion Christian Church leader Bishop Barnabas Lekganyane.
He said Lekganyane pledged his full support to work with the government in the coming weeks ahead of the Easter weekend in Moria.
“Honourable members, I wish to draw your attention that TB and coronavirus share some similarities, but there are a number of differences. While TB is caused by a bacterium, Covid-19 is caused by a virus as we know coronavirus,” said Phaahla.
He said TB remained the biggest infectious killer in the world and South Africa. The figures have shown that 320 000 people contract TB in South Africa every year.
Naledi Chirwa of the EFF said the government for years failed to tackle the spread of TB despite calls by civil society. She said while there were 24 cases of coronavirus, the government had not given information on how the disease would affect people with HIV and TB.
Evelyn Wilson of the DA said she wondered how Cabinet ministers slept at night with the coronavirus. She said those with HIV remained vulnerable to coronavirus.
Wilson said the country was on a precipice because the public health care system was not functioning and the government would struggle to deal with large numbers of people if the coronavirus continued to spread.
“Will hospitals cope? Not a chance. Our health system is not going to manage this.”
Stephanus du Toit of the Freedom Front Plus said the coronavirus had sent panic waves across the country.
He said if the government failed to fight TB it would not be able to help those with virus.
Phaahla reiterated there was no need to panic and efforts were being made to deal with cases of coronavirus.