Coronavirus: After SA tops 1 000 cases, minister again warns on 'vulnerable' groups

Health Minister Zweli Mkhize warns the vulnerable to be extra cautious.
Health Minister Zweli Mkhize warns the vulnerable to be extra cautious.

Health Minister Zweli Mkhize on Friday said that his department has made "clinical observations that are of concern", as total confirmed coronavirus cases in South Africa passed the 1 000-mark.

The minister confirmed that total positive cases were at 1 170, and that 28 537 tests had been conducted.

He also said there has only been one Covid-19-related death so far – a 48-year-old woman. 

The minister also outlined key observations so far, saying that the infection of people with accompanying diseases was increasing.

"This is well illustrated by the Covid-19 patient that has passed away in the Western Cape.

"We therefore urge our citizens to be vigilant, protect themselves and not unnecessarily expose themselves by making contact with a lot of people.

"It is important to remain in your home, create a distance between yourself and anyone, including family members that are unwell," he said.

READ | Coronavirus in SA: All the confirmed cases

Know your status

The minister stressed that people should know their HIV status, get tested and immediately start treatment should they test positive.

He emphasised this point after pointing out that HIV-positive people with a low CD4 count fell into the vulnerable category.

Other underlying medical diseases that make people vulnerable are:

  • Chronic lung diseases, including TB, asthma and COPD
  • Auto immune diseases of any kind
  • Chronic kidney diseases
  • Cancer
  • Diabetes

There was also a warning for smokers and dependent alcohol consumers, who were also considered a vulnerable population group.

"We encourage smokers to quit smoking and for those who drink alcohol, to do so moderately," the minister said

Elderly vulnerable

He also said that the elderly population in our society was vulnerable.

To illustrate this, he said, in KwaZulu-Natal, one of the confirmed cases is an 81-year-old female who is now in ICU and on a ventilator.

"She initially presented with pneumonia and was admitted and treated as such. Because of the severity of the pneumonia, she was tested for Covid-19 and was confirmed.

"This elderly woman lives in an old age home. As a result, all other elderly people from this old age home are regarded as being vulnerable and are being tested.

"Those who will test positive will then be put in isolation."

Internal transmissions increasing

The minister also warned about an increase in the rate of internal transmissions, as patients without a history of international travel have been detected in many provinces.

"The Free State province is such an example. The majority of 61 patients infected arose from the church conference which had five international visitors who subsequently tested positive for Covid-19.

"Amongst these were various local church leaders who have since tested positive for Covid-19, thus making their own church members direct contacts.

"These church members have had to be screened and tested. The church leaders and members who were tested have since been put in quarantine.

"It must be noted that these confirmed cases in the Free State province are concentrated in Mangaung and this requires dedicated focus of interventions.

"All the above factors have emphasised the need to rapidly expand testing, early detection and early treatment. We are intensifying the offensive," Minister Mkhize said.

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