A total of 511 South African health workers have tested positive for Covid-19, 26 have been hospitalised and a doctor and nurse have succumbed to the virus.
This is according to Health Minister Zweli Mkhize, who spoke at the Job Shimankana Tabane Provincial Hospital in Rustenburg in the North West on Wednesday.
Mkhize and other senior government officials were visiting the province to receive a donation of personal protective equipment (PPE) from Sibanye Stillwater and Old Mutual in Rustenburg.
The contribution is important, considering the prevalence of the virus among frontline personnel, Mkhize said.
“Our health workers are like soldiers who go to war. They must be well trained, well armed and well protected. We want them to be confident that they are well trained, that they understand how they don’t get infected and how they protect others,” Mkhize said.
“I pay tribute to all our health workers. They have done a great job. We bow our heads and salute you. We appreciate all the work you are doing. Both public and private health workers are one.”
The minister said the novel coronavirus was a battle South Africans faced every day and that it “might be here for another two years”.
“We have seen the numbers increasing. We said that many of us will get the infection. Our role has been to slow down the rate at which the infection gets to us.
“The main message is about partnership. Everyone must play a role in the fight against Covid-19. Our partners today are Sibanye Stillwater and Old Mutual,” Mkhize said.
The minister thanked the companies for their contributions.
“I am pleased that most areas have gone all out to open field hospitals. This contribution adds to our facilities.”
Mkhize acknowledged that the pressure of having to look for food and the loss of income were factors that led people to breach lockdown regulations.
“At the end of the day, everything is about people. It is only when our people are healthy that we will have a thriving economy. Improving our economy starts with the good health of our people. Good nutrition, hygiene and sanitation are at the core of our people being healthy.
“In terms of our scientific focus, we were able to push the peak. If we were to prolong the lockdown, it would not have delayed the peak substantially. We can now spot where the problems are coming from. We have learnt lessons from other countries and we have an advantage,” Mkhize said.
Addressing the mining sector, Mkhize said: “All mineworkers must be screened. It is more helpful to be proactive. We can save staff and the whole mine if we screen miners. We encourage all mining companies to work with the provincial government on this.”
Mkhize added that the department had received a call from the government of Madagascar, who asked for help with scientific research into its controversial herbal remedy it had been touting as a possible cure for Covid-19.
“We will only get involved in a scientific analysis… [but] we are not at that point yet,” he said.