SA seeing ‘worrying signs’ of rise in Covid-19 infections, Phaahla tells MPs

It will take time to see how the next wave will behave

22 April 2022 - 15:26
By Nonkululeko Njilo
Health minister Dr Joe Phaahla says the country is seeing an uptick in Covid-19 infections. File photo.
Image: Freddy Mavunda Health minister Dr Joe Phaahla says the country is seeing an uptick in Covid-19 infections. File photo.

Health minister Joe Phaahla says SA has over the past few days seen worrying trends in the rise in Covid-19 infections.

However, he hopes the next wave of infections will not be as disruptive as previous waves.

Phaahla was speaking on Friday at parliament’s portfolio committee on health ahead of the national health department revealing its spending plans for the 2022/23 financial year. 

“Over the past few days we have seen worrying signs of a rise in the level of Covid-19  infections. We hope this will not go higher. We are monitoring the situation and will report back to the committee and public once we have seen the trend. We need to give it a little more time to see how it is going to behave.”

On Thursday the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) reported 4,406 new Covid-19 infections, bringing the overall number of laboratory-confirmed cases to 3,750,830. This rise reflected a 15.8% increase in the positivity rate. 

“We hope that even if there is a rise as we go into wintert it will not be disruptive enough to divert us from our programmes,” Phaahla said. 

He said department’s programmes over the past two years were dominated by efforts to contain the coronavirus, including vaccination rollouts which required a lot of energy and financial resources.

Phaahla said going into the 2022/23 financial year he hoped the pandemic will be better contained.

 “We are hopeful as we present this annual performance plan that the 2022/23 financial year will be different from past financial years.

“We hope there will be more stability in that the pandemic will be better contained. There is hope from the experience of the last quarter of the last financial year, with the advent of the Omicron. variant, which even though it is highly transmissible has shown less severity, partly because of high levels of immunity through vaccination and natural immunity.

“We are hoping this will continue so this year we can focus more squarely on the department’s programmes we are presenting today.”

The department’s director-general Sandile Buthelezi warned about a possible outbreak of enteric diseases after the floods in KwaZulu-Natal and Eastern Cape. 

Buthelezi said cholera, shigella and salmonella were common after floods, and assured MPs the department has  mitigating plans. 

“What’s more important is the issue of water. How do we make sure water is purified since there is a problem with supply? Our teams of environmental health workers are working closely with municipalities and the department of water and sanitation to make sure we prevent outbreaks of infections and diseases.”