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'KZN is taking over': Zweli Mkhize on the province becoming SA's Covid-19 'epicentre'

Health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize.
Health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize.
Image: Photo by Gallo Images/Phill Magakoe

Health minister Zweli Mkhize has warned that KwaZulu-Natal could be the next Covid-19 epicentre as the province's surge in infections continues.

The province, which was the first to report a Covid-19 case - in March - is expected to “take over” from Gauteng, said Mkhize, who was speaking during his visit to the Nasrec field hospital in Johannesburg on Monday to assess Gauteng’s readiness for the Covid-19 surge.

To date, SA has 373,628 confirmed cases as deaths climb to 5,173.

Gauteng remains the hardest-hit province with 136,879 confirmed cases, while KwaZulu-Natal has 45,614 cases.

Mkhize said his department would discuss with the KwaZulu-Natal government how “not to get caught up in the numbers”. 

He said the health department's goal is to make sure the province does not have a shortage of beds or oxygen.

“We are watching the trends and certainly Gauteng is at the top of rate of infection. KZN is taking over now and we’ll need to reach out to them so they don’t get caught up with the numbers. We want to make sure that they don’t have a challenge with beds and with oxygen and that the turnaround times are also reduced,” said Mkhize.

“Our clinicians are quite on top of the game, the decisions of admission are up to the clinicians. If people are not admitted to hospitals, it will not be due to a lack of beds, but because they do not meet the admission criteria,” he added.

Mkhize said the reduction in trauma patient numbers after the liquor ban was a huge advantage and will help clinicians in dealing with Covid-19 patients.

“Until the surge hits you, you don’t know how to behave. You will only know when you are in the heat of it,” said Mkhize.

KZN surge

Over the past few weeks, KwaZulu-Natal has seen a rapid increase in Covid-19 cases.

At the start of the month, the province had 10,632 confirmed cases and in less than 21 days it reported 34,982, pushing the total number to 45,614. That's  about 1,749 new cases daily.

On Sunday, at a media briefing, KwaZulu-Natal premier Sihle Zikalala revealed that 12 health workers have died in the province from  Covid-19. Of these, 60% were nurses.

“The surge continues with Ethekwini [Durban] and Umgungundlovu [Pietermaritzburg] recording more than half of the daily cases,” said Zikalala, adding that the growing number of private laboratories posed a challenge in the province.

“The mushrooming of private laboratories continues to be a challenge. Some of these do not complete demographic details of patients, including residential address, telephone numbers and facility names. As a result, the province is experiencing an increase in a number of unallocated cases.”

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