The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in South Africa has risen to 1,187, with Gauteng still reporting the highest number of cases, at 533. But it is the the number of confirmed cases involving healthcare workers in private and public hospitals that is causing concern.
Health Minister Dr Zwelini Mkhize said in a statement on Saturday evening: “We have noted with concern a number of confirmed COVID-19 cases of health workers who work both in the private and public hospitals. This includes doctor and nurses.
“We mention this because health workers are in the frontline of this battle. They are exposed not only to their families but to the patients who they are meant to treat.”
The SA Department of Health reassured South Africans that all infected health workers are in a good medical condition, displaying only mild or no symptoms… apart from one doctor in the Free State who is aged 70 and in ICU.
“It must be emphasised that none of these health workers were infected by patients that they were treating,” said Dr Mkhize.
“They came into contact with their family members, friends and other colleagues who had tested positive for COVID-19. All individuals who were identified as contacts of these health workers have been put in quarantine and are being monitored.”
Some of the confirmed COVID-19 cases that involve health workers are as follows:
- In Limpopo, a medical doctor tested positive after he had travelled abroad for a holiday. He started experiencing symptoms upon his return and immediately decided to quarantine himself. “This young doctor remained in quarantine to ensure that he does not transmit the virus to other people. His 14-day quarantine period has ended and we are pleased to report that his results have now been confirmed negative,” said the statement.
- In Mpumalanga, another medical doctor had also travelled abroad and returned with symptoms which appeared a few days after his return. Before then, he had had interactions with staff and patients. He then tested positive and was quarantined. Health workers he had been in contact with were therefore screened, quarantined and tested. “A decision was also made for that section of the hospital to be closed in order to disinfect it. This has been completed and it will be reopening during the course of next week,” said Dr Mkhize.
- In the Free State, the Health Dept has received a report that three doctors (including the 70-year-old doctor in ICU), one nurse and a neurophysicist have tested positive for COVID-19.
- In Gauteng, six medical doctors have been infected.
The current breakdown of coronavirus cases per province is as follows:
South Africa Understocked with Flu Vaccines
The Health Department also announced that South Africa has a limited stock of flu vaccines as when they pre-ordered, a year in advance as is customary, they had not anticipated the COVID-19 pandemic. Health workers will be given priority in receiving the flu vaccine.
“This is precipitated by the fact that the country cannot afford to have them sick, especially as the flu season approaches. This is one of the major lessons that we have learnt from countries that have experienced the COVID-19 pandemic,” explained Dr Mkhize.
“We therefore plead for the understanding of all South Africans who may unfortunately not have access to the flu vaccine this year.”
The Department also said it was pleased that SA is participating in the Public Health Emergency Solidarity Trial that has been initiated by the World Health Organisation to conduct a clinical trial to find effective treatment for COVID-19.