South Africa has registered five Covid-19 deaths, but the rate of new cases seems to have reduced for now, Minister of Health Zweli Mkhize said on Tuesday.
As of Tuesday, 31 March, the country had 46 new confirmed cases, Mkhize said. This brought the total amount of cases to 1 353 – the number includes cases where people have since recovered.
Also, as of Tuesday, Mkhize’s department confirmed five deaths as a result of the coronavirus, two of which had been previously reported.
The first death was a 48-year-old woman in the Western Cape who had
an underlying condition, and the second was a 74-year-old man from
Ladysmith in KwaZulu-Natal, Mkhize said.
The third death was confirmed to be an 85-year-old man in Bloemfontein. He was an elderly pastor, who was at the Bloemfontein church gathering attended by five international guests who later tested positive for the coronavirus.
The fourth and fifth deaths were a 79-year-old Gauteng man, who had no history of travel, and a 46-year-old woman from Umlazi, KwaZulu-Natal, who suffered from chronic asthma and hypertension.
Mkhize said he would follow up on a potential sixth case of a person who allegedly died of Covid-19 in KwaDukuza, north of Durban, and had been buried under Muslim burial rites. Mkhize could not immediately confirm its veracity.
Ramping up testing
The total number of people tested nationally for the virus was at 39 500 individuals, but this would be ramped up in days to come, Mkhize said.
He said they would escalate testing through mobile clinics.
“We are going to escalate testing and screening of patients. I came to KZN to see how they are approaching this matter. They are on course. We are unveiling mobile testing vans. We will be increasing the number of field workers and tracing teams.”
Pressure on labs
Mkhize said there was “huge pressure” on lab services to test for Covid-19.
“We picked up backlogs in the system. We moved tests to national lab services. By Friday, we cleared 4 000 lab tests. We are watching the system for backlogs.”
He said that closing ports of entry was an important step in reducing numbers.
“Up to last week, 70% of positive cases were passengers coming into the country.”
Mkhize said they would also focus on areas where the virus was found.
“As we move on, we have decided we are going to be more targeted. We are now going to target the identified hotspots. We are scaling up the intervention.”
Mkhize said there would also be a challenge if Covid-19 was still around in winter.
“Scaling up of testing might increase the number of infections. It remains serious and a challenge as we go to cold winter months. We are working hard to ensure health workers are protected (and) also working hard on (ensuring) protective gear.”