President Cyril Ramaphosa says that while the country’s Covid-19 infections are climbing, the rate of recovery is high and the death rate low compared with other countries.
Ramaphosa was commenting at the weekend on the number of confirmed Covid-19 infections in the country breaching the half-million mark at the weekend.
While the president said effective measures were put in place to slow the onset of the pandemic, he admitted that Eastern Cape plans for when the virus reached its peak were not effectively implemented.
He said of the total 503,290 cases as at Saturday, 342,461 people have recovered and 152,676 cases were active.
There have been 8,153 fatalities as a result of the coronavirus, with Ramaphosa acknowledging indications that this figure was likely to rise much higher.
Acknowledging the grim infection milestone, Ramaphosa said SA was the fifth country, after the US, Brazil, India and Russia to hit the 500,000 mark.
But, he said, the rate of recovery was around 68%, while the case fatality rate – the number of deaths as a proportion of confirmed cases – remained at 1.6%, “significantly lower than the global average”.
As a result the country had recorded only the 36th highest number of deaths as a proportion of national populations.
“The national lockdown succeeded in delaying the spread of the virus by more than two months, preventing a sudden and uncontrolled increase in infections in late March. Had South Africans not acted together to prevent this outcome, our health system would have been overwhelmed in every province. This would have resulted in a dramatic loss of life,” he said.
Nevertheless, he said, the plan was not well implemented.
“Several public hospitals in the Eastern Cape were overwhelmed as infections rose in the province, and a specialist team has been deployed to address this challenge.
“In other provinces hard-hit by the epidemic, including the Western Cape, Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal, the health system has so far had sufficient capacity to cope with the number of admissions. This is a testament to the efforts of doctors, nurses, public health specialists and others who have worked hard to prepare for this moment. We need, however, to continue with these efforts to further increase the capacity of our health facilities.”
Additional facilities, equipment and personnel were being deployed in provinces still experiencing an increase in infections.
He indicated logistical problems that have led to shortages of personal protective equipment for health workers and other frontline staff were being fixed.
“We understand the concerns and the frustrations of these essential workers and are committed to resolving this issue with the greatest urgency.”
Ramaphosa emphasised that law enforcement agencies had been empowered to investigate corruption and irregularities in the procurement of medical and other supplies.