Covid-19: Mkhize concerned after increase in confirmed cases in Nelson Mandela Bay, now at 167

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Health Minister Zweli Mkhize in Nelson Mandela Bay. (Photo supplied by the Eastern Cape Department of Health)
Health Minister Zweli Mkhize in Nelson Mandela Bay. (Photo supplied by the Eastern Cape Department of Health)

Health Minister Zweli Mkhize says Nelson Mandela Bay should ramp up its testing and screening after a rapid rise in confirmed Covid-19 cases in the metro to 167, with six deaths.

Mkhize visited East London and the Nqadu Great Place in Willowvale on Tuesday and was in Nelson Mandela Bay on Wednesday as part of his Eastern Cape visit. 

Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality has been identified as a major hotspot for Covid-19 in the province. 

Speaking to the media at the Port Elizabeth Fire Station on Wednesday, and streamed live by the provincial health department, Mkhize said he was concerned because the numbers in Nelson Mandela Bay were increasing rapidly.

"The numbers can be traced to two events, which were funerals at KwaDesi and Zwide. This is a matter of concern because the numbers have actually increased. We've started to see a lot of problems arising from this and, in this case, one of the families has reported that both parents have passed on, and the children are orphans as a result of this," said Mkhize. 

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Mkhize said that, of the 167 Covid-19 cases, 1 000 contacts had been traced.

"Because they come from densely populated areas, it is going to be difficult for them to quarantine in their own homes. The MEC has reached out to Nelson Mandela University, [who] have offered 800 beds to absorb most of these contact individuals."

Mkhize also emphasised the importance of screening and said more admissions were expected during the approaching winter season. 

He highlighted other challenges in the province, namely the shortage of hospital staff and personal protective equipment (PPE).

Mkhize said the filling of vacancies was being fast tracked, while the replenishment of stock for hospitals would be ready for delivery within a day. 

Mkhize added community screening and testing needed to be reinforced because the numbers did not add up. He said that additional vans from the National Health Laboratory Service (NHLS) would come into the province to improve testing capacity.

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"In my own reading of the numbers, I have a feeling we need more testing because we will probably find more people. The number of deaths and the reported positive cases do not match," said Mkhize.

In the meanwhile, more hospitals are being prepared by the Department of Public Works to admit patients. 

According to Mkhize, asymptomatic individuals who have been in contact with Covid-19 positive cases, and who cannot be isolated at home, will be accommodated at field hospitals for a period of 14 days.

According to the Eastern Cape Department of Health, these facilities will ready within the next two weeks. 

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