Mkhize defends department’s projections on Covid-19 infections, deaths in SA

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Johannesburg – Health Minister Zweli Mkhize has on Thursday emphasised Covid-19 has been an unfolding pandemic which everyone has been learning about over the past few months and one that nobody has all the answers to.

He said that the whole world was struggling with the same pandemic and nobody had all the answers.

“But there are many lessons to learn that can guide our response as South Africans.

One of the models, by the Modelling and Simulation Hub, Africa (MASHA) from the University of Cape Town, on Tuesday projected that the country could have one million Covid-19 infections and upwards of 40 000 coronavirus related deaths by November 2020.

On Thursday in a briefing held by the Department of Health, Covid-19 modelers added even more grim news for the country as they projected that the country faced the risk of running out of ICU beds as early as June.

The Covid-19 modelers said that the Western Cape, in particular, which currently leads the country with 12 153 total positive cases and 235 deaths, faced the biggest risk.

Mkhize said that there had been no Covid-19 model that had been able to predict what has happened in the Western Cape upfront.

“The one model that I saw predicted that it was going to be Gauteng that was going to be exploding first, followed by KZN,” Mkhize said.

Dr Kerrigan McCarthy, a member of the Covid-19 minesterial advisory committee and a senior pathologist at the National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NCID) said that the situation that the country was facing was not unique as there was no global matrix or blueprint on how to handle the pandemic.

“The experts that are advising the minister are a group of medically trained scientists who have long histories in services delivery in terms of public sector healthcare provision and health activism.

“We are able to give response to the Covid-19 pandemic as a fruit of ours years of experience of working in health. But where we are not experts is the impact of health policies on other sectors of the economy, education, on people’s psychological well-being and all of these factors need to be taken into account when one calculates a risk benefit assessment and decides on what policies to take and what actions and responses to take,” McCarthy said.

She added all countries across the world were grappling with similar questions, such as to what degree should they infringe on human liberty in order to bring about a good end.

“There isn’t a right answer, there is no nice formula that says if you do this you will decrease deaths or if you don’t do this deaths are going to rise and we’re trying to figure it out as a society and as health experts and of course we’re all going to have different opinions,” McCarthy added.

On Tuesday evening Mkhize took a swipe at Professor Glenda Gray, Chairperson of the research sub-committee team of 50 expert Covid-19 pandemic advisors to the government, who had recently criticised some of the regulations of the nationwide lockdown saying they had not been grounded in science with one impact of the lockdown regulations being a flare-up in malnutrition among children.

However, Mkhize said that Gray’s comments were “at the least devoid of the truth”.

“It can never be Prof Gray’s place to make such comments without being aware of the details, the advice and the process the department of basic education has followed,” Mkhize said.

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 

By Samkelo Mtshali

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