Coronavirus in SA: Brace yourselves, ‘the storm’ isn’t over

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Health Minister Zweli Mkhize has warned that the Covid-19 storm is not over.

Mkhize on Friday said there were 2003 confirmed positive cases and 24 deaths in South Africa.

He said although new infections had dropped, there might be another increase especially if South Africans do not co-­operate with the lockdown conditions.

Mkhize said another increase might occur in the winter season.

He addressed the media in Pietermaritzburg yesterday about his meeting with private hospitals management after an outbreak at Durban’s St Augustine Hospital, which claimed the lives of four patients.

“While we are seeing some very promising elements in the response, it is still too early. It is still important for us to keep remembering that we are still traversing through a storm that is gathering, and the storm is not over,” he said.

He said “the storm”, which would be another huge increase in the spread, was being delayed because of the lockdown.

“Therefore we cannot be com­placent, we have to move on,” said Mkhize.

Mkhize said President Cyril Ramaphosa’s extension of the lockdown – which was to have ended next Thursday – until the end of the month had received a lot of support.

“This is collaborative work as the defeat of Covid-19 is no longer an issue of a nurse or doctor, it is actually about society going into the combat zone, fighting this infection,” he said.

He said the department would soon launch an investigation into the large number of infections at St Augustine’s, a private hospital, in Durban. The hospital had reported 66 positive cases, which included 48 staff members.

He said there would be a close working relationship between the public and private health sectors to share beds.

“The large number of people who are in treatment in hospitals, that number is largely in the private sector,” he said.

Health MEC Nomagugu Simelane-­Zulu said the provincial department would also investigate two infections, of a nurse and patient, recently reported at the Inkosi Albert Luthuli Central Hospital, one of the biggest referral institutions in the province.

Ramaphosa announced on Thursday evening that the national lockdown had been extended by two weeks and that his entire executive would donate one third of their salaries for the next three months to the Solidarity Fund.

His call has largely been welcomed, but South Africa’s largest municipal workers’ union has refused to follow suit.

Ramaphosa established the fund, which has already raised R2.2billion, to accept contributions from local businesses, organisations, individuals and the international community to complement the work done in the public sector to fight the Covid-19 pandemic.

He also called on other public office bearers and executives of large companies to make a similar gesture.

The ANC asked executives in the private sector, state-owned entities, members of Parliament and provincial legislatures, and councillors to follow suit.

The EFF backed Ramaphosa’s call and indicated that all its public representatives – MPs, MPLs and councillors – would also contribute a third of their salaries.

The EFF’s public representatives will be exempted from paying the mandatory party levy while they contribute to the fund.

UDM leader Bantu Holomisa said the party would also support the initiative, but added that more people would contribute if Ramaphosa’s administration ensured that banks gave their clients payment holidays on bond, car and loan repayments for three months.

DA interim leader John Steenhuisen demanded public servants take salary cuts, saying it was a chance “to slash the public sector wage bill”.

The IFP applauded the salary cuts of top government officials.

Cosatu affiliate, the SA Municipal Workers’ Union (Samwu), dismissed Ekurhuleni mayor Mzwandile Masina’s pronouncement that its employees would take salary cuts between 5% and a third for three months to contribute to the fund after discussions.

Samwu, the largest union in the local government sector, said its members would not be participate in what it described as a “salary cut challenge”.

It urged the country’s municipalities not to expect employees to participate in planned pay cuts.

The EFF’s public representatives will be exempted from paying the mandatory party levy while they contribute to the fund.

UDM leader Bantu Holomisa said the party would also support the initiative, but added that more people would contribute if Ramaphosa’s administration ensured that banks gave their clients payment holidays on bond, car and loan repayments for three months.

DA interim leader John Steenhuisen demanded public servants take salary cuts, saying it was a chance “to slash the public sector wage bill”.

The IFP applauded the salary cuts of top government officials.

Cosatu affiliate, the SA Municipal Workers’ Union (Samwu), dismissed Ekurhuleni mayor Mzwandile Masina’s pronouncement that its employees would take salary cuts between 5% and a third for three months to contribute to the fund after discussions.

Samwu, the largest union in the local government sector, said its members would not be participate in what it described as a “salary cut challenge”.

It urged the country’s municipalities not to expect employees to participate in planned pay cuts.

Political Bureau

* For the latest on the Covid-19 outbreak, visit IOL’s special #Coronavirus page.

** If you think you have been exposed to the Covid-19 virus, please call the 24-hour hotline on 0800 029 999 or visit sacoronavirus.co.za

By Bongani Hans and Loyiso Sidimba

Credit: www.iol.co.za

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