Covid-19: 27 000 health workers infected, Mkhize expresses his 'deep appreciation'

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Dr Zweli Mkhize.
Dr Zweli Mkhize.
Jaco Marais
  • Health Minister Zweli Mkhize has expressed his "deep appreciation" for healthcare workers who are braving the Covid-19 storm.
  • Mkhize says more than 27 000 healthcare workers have been infected with Covid-19 and 240 have died.
  • "I am here to celebrate the health professional and to salute you all for the sheer tenacity and resilience you have portrayed that has positioned us as leaders in the global Covid-19 response," he said.

More than 27 000 healthcare professionals have been infected with Covid-19 and 240 have died, according to Health Minister Zweli Mkhize.

LIVE | All the latest coronavirus and lockdown updates

Mkhize expressed his appreciation for health professionals when he spoke at an engagement attended by doctors and health professionals in Gauteng on Monday.

Fellow panellists included: chairperson of the Ministerial Advisory Committee, Professor Salim Abdool Karim; Emeritus professor of critical care at Wits University, Professor Guy Richards; president of the SA Heart Association and cardiologist at Netcare Linksfield Clinics Dr David Jankelow; and colleagues in the healthcare industry.

READ | 'You are comrades in combat' - Zweli Mkhize praises Cuban doctors deployed to South Africa

"It is our duty to honour their sacrifice by committing fully to the safety and well-being of our healthcare workers," Mkhize said, adding that the issue was critical.

"I have recently had serious engagements with a number of trade unions and I have said if there is any health worker that raises matters of safety, it must be taken seriously.

"The only way of knowing that the matter is resolved is when structures representing government and labour jointly verify the situation of healthcare worker safety and ensure satisfactory resolutions. We have adopted the slogan: 'No PPE, no work,'" Mkhize said.

The event was an opportunity for Mkhize to listen to the "thoughts, fears, aspirations and innovations" of healthcare workers, he said.

"I am here to celebrate the health professional and to salute you all for the sheer tenacity and resilience you have portrayed that has positioned us as leaders in the global Covid-19 response."

"After all is said and done, it is the doctor who must look [at] and speak with the patients, who must make a decision and broker trust as he gives the diagnosis and recommends the treatment pathway," Mkhize said.

He added: "This is important for us because it's the doctor must do this whilst having to grapple with his or her own uncertainties, rapidly evolving evidence, patient and community fear and anxiety, and the added emotional burden of constantly worrying about one's own safety as well."

He expressed his "deep appreciation" for healthcare workers "who have really been the most able champions in this fight".

"Your passion, commitment, diligence and love for science has not only made my job as Minister of Health so rewarding, but it has truly been the highlight of my career to partner and learn from my esteemed colleagues in healthcare as I have observed South African expertise pushed to its absolute cutting edge," Mkhize said.

'Let us not relent'

While the number of cases might be declining, with some provinces past their first peak, Mkhize urged health workers to keep going.

"Now, as we experience a trough in our epidemic, let us not relent or fall into the trap of  complacence but rather ride the momentum so we can keep a flat curve and ensure our facilities, and yourselves, do not become overwhelmed."

He said field hospitals were being dismantled and that the focus was shifting to refurbishment, oxygen reticulation and fostering good relations between the public and private sectors.

He encouraged a similar unified front for the implementation of National Health Insurance.

"As we are unified now against Covid-19, let us not allow a disintegration of this fraternal cohesion that has been forged between clinicians, scientists, academics and government.

"It has been this commitment to collaborating together, public and private sectors, that has ultimately given hope to our people," he said.

Don't become complacent

Abdool Karim warned that while numbers were declining, it did not mean the worst was over, TimesLIVE reported.

He called on health workers and the public to not let their guard down or become complacent about prevention strategies, such as social distancing, mask wearing and hand washing.

"The second surge is waiting to pounce," he warned.

ALSO READ | Covid-19: We are over the surge; now we must be responsible - Zweli Mkhize

Daily numbers

Mkhize said 1 677 new Covid-19 infections brought South Africa's case total to 611 450, and that 100 additional deaths took the death toll to 13 159.

Recoveries were 516 494 - a rate of 84%.

Coronavirus cases per province as at 24 August 202

Antibody testing

The minister added that the director-general of health had issued new guidelines for SARS CoV 2 (or Covid-19) antibody testing, with the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (Sahpra) announcing the approval of testing kits.

While Mkhize said it was a "welcome development" he added that there were antibody testing limitations.

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