Health Minister Zweli Mkhize on Sunday evening answered questions from the public related to Covid-19 in a live broadcast by Newzroom Afrika. Below are some the highlights during the question and answer session.
On children going back to the school
On school going children, he said Covid-19 will be “with us this year, next year and maybe the year thereafter”.
The number of infections will probably be even higher than now when children go back to school again in four weeks’ time, he said.
“By the time when we do open, the number of people who are positive will be higher than they are now.
“Distancing and the use of masks are the best way of saving everyone from infection.”
“It’s not because we don’t care about people … from where we sit, we say that, yes, it’s a challenge but it’s not a reckless move [to send children back to school].”
Talking about the decision to close schools again for four weeks, he said:“ Our ministerial advisory committee said the sooner they get back to school, the better.
“When the unions came up, they were concerned, then we got the experts to come out as well … A lot of them actually agreed the risk to children is not that high.”
He added that most children who tested positive after schools started contracted Covid-19 in the community and not at school.
“So we have to keep negotiating this …
“The truth of the matter is children can’t be constrained … [But] we can never say we are all completely correct.”
What can we expect in the next four months?
“We expect the numbers are still likely to increase … August and September we’ll still have high numbers … which means more people might still be hospitalised.
“Each province had its own trajectory … However, we do believe that at some point we will be over this problem …
“We work very hard to break the cycle of infection.”
At the moment, SA was in the midst of the worst phase.
“The peak will come in July, August and September,” said Mkhize.
Has SA secured a vaccine yet?
“Many countries are still waiting for successful vaccine trials, no country yet has a vaccine that is ready.
“Some of the vaccines … they [the pharmaceutical companies involved] say that their processes are well advanced. We have been in touch with the same companies in SA … we are going to work with them closely.”
On Covid-related corruption
“Corruption is a problem. It is something we must fight. It is a cancer we must fight against.”
On movement between provinces
“We are not encouraging a lot of movement … it is still not encouraged. So, the real problem of movement of people is a challenge. It’s a challenge in the same vicinity because people can move from the same area to the other.”
How will the government protect newborn babies?
“We don’t do any vaccines yet [for babies] … until we get the vaccine ready, which will be probably next year, not this year.
He added that most children are either asymptomatic or suffer from mild symptoms.
“We have found some children who are positive … it is possible that the mother can pass the infection to the baby but it is not expected that the risk is too much for the baby.”
On the EFF’s criticism against the government’s statistics
“I would like to engage with the EFF to see what concern they’ve got … numbers can be confusing. The numbers we issue every day are well calculated.”
Turning to the high number of excess deaths, Mkhize said: “It’s not all Covid-19 but we will allow the scientists to fight over that … For scientists to debate and query numbers is natural.”