Mkhize: Essential workers in Western Cape, funerals in Eastern Cape driving infection rates

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Outbreaks among essential workers have led to the Western Cape overtaking Gauteng as the epicentre of the Covid-19 pandemic in South Africa, while funerals and an outbreak in the correctional services system drove up the Eastern Cape's figures.

This is according to Health Minister Zweli Mkhize, who had a virtual meeting with the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Health and the Select Committee on Health and Social Services on Monday morning.

"We're seeing changes in the outbreak on a day-to-day basis," he said. "When we started with the outbreak, Gauteng province was the highest, things have shifted with the Western Cape now the epicentre."

He said there has been a change in pattern.

"The pattern that we're seeing is happening in workplaces which were originally identified as essential services.

"It looks like we need to find additional support to strengthen the response of the province in that area."

He said he has been in contact with Western Cape Health MEC Nomafrench Mbombo and will be visiting the province again soon.

"We are going to be increasing the number of kits that are going to the Western Cape, he said.

"We'll also be working very closely with the clinicians treating patients to see what assistance they need, we'll get them their PPEs (personal protective equipment)."

He said more specialists, including those who arrived from Cuba on Monday, will be sent to the province. He added that his department is going to work with the provincial department on planning.

Eastern Cape's infections have 'shot up'

Mkhize said he is concerned that the Free State has now been overtaken by the Eastern Cape in terms of infections.

He added that in the Free State the pattern was based on one incident – a large church gathering where many people were infected.

"That has been contained for the past few weeks now. The numbers have kept stable around 110, 104."

He said the Eastern Cape's infections have since "shot up".

"If you look at the Eastern Cape, the outbreak is driven by social gatherings, mainly funerals. And then, of course, it happened in the correctional services area.

"We're now going to look at the distribution of the specialists coming from Cuba so that it can reinforce some of the places we are dealing with."

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