The difficult coronavirus problem South Africa is facing right now: Mkhize

Health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize says that South Africa will need to brace itself for a ‘major spike’ in new coronavirus cases as the country opens more sectors of its economy.

Mkhize’s warning comes after President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that South Africa will move to an ‘advanced’ level 3 lockdown, with a number of business sectors reopened to the public.

Ramaphosa said that this will include the reopening of restaurants for sit-down meals, and personal care services including hairdressers.

However, the president has made it clear that specific and stringent safety requirements will have to be followed as part of this reopening. He added that protocols will need to be strictly adhered to for these activities to remain open.

Speaking in a Power 98.7 interview on Thursday (18 June), Mkhize said that while there will be an increase in cases as more people mix together, South Africa has to make this difficult decision as it faces living with the coronavirus for years.

“If you didn’t open up, you were going to have a different problem. That problem was going to be that for the next two years we were going to co-exist with the virus. You can’t stop schools, you can’t stop churches, you can’t stop work and you can’t stop people getting income.

“(If you do these things) you face problems of hunger and an economy that has ground a halt. We need to balance the two by easing certain things slowly and ensuring that people move to a new way of behaviour.”

Breakthrough drug

Mkhize also commented on the availability of dexamethasone for the treatment of coronavirus in South Africa.

Dexamethasone is a steroid that has been used since the 1960s to reduce inflammation in a range of conditions, including inflammatory disorders and certain cancers.

It has been listed on the WHO Model List of Essential Medicines since 1977 in multiple formulations and is currently off-patent and affordably available in most countries.

The drug has recently seen a successful trial in the UK and will now be used in South Africa, Mkhize said.

“Every hospital has dexamethasone. It is a drug that has been available for a long time and has typically been used to treat people with auto-immune problems.

“What has happened is that there is direct evidence linking the survival rate of people with coronavirus and the drug.  It is going to be a in a clear protocol so that we can use it. ”

Mkhize added that the country does have stock of the drug and that pharmaceutical company Aspen also has the ability to manufacture it.

Read: These businesses will open under ‘advanced’ level 3 lockdown: Ramaphosa

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The difficult coronavirus problem South Africa is facing right now: Mkhize