Covid-19: 1m infections, 58,000 dead worldwide, Saffers dig deep; Netcare hospital shutdown; Transnet restarts

By Jackie Cameron

  • As the number of Covid-19 infections breaches the 1m mark worldwide, South Africa’s health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize said at the weekend that the total number of confirmed Covid-19 cases is 1,585. This is an increase of 80 from the previously reported cases. The provincial breakdown, as of 4 April, was as follows:
  • A Netcare hospital in KwaZulu-Natal is shutting sections as its bosses move to identify shortcomings in infection control and trace people who may have been infected with Covid-19 after 11 cases were linked to it. “We have received a report from KZN Health MEC, Ms Nomagugu Simelane-Zulu that KwaZulu-Natal has 11 confirmed Covid-19 cases linked to St Augustine’s Hospital, in Durban. Furthermore, 3 of the deceased patients from KZN had been admitted at the hospital,” the government said in a statement.
  • “The Covid-19 positive cases include patients, health workers and other staff members. The KZN Department of Health and Netcare management agreed that the affected sections of the hospital be closed and no new patient admissions be permitted. This is a precautionary measure to allow for a thorough identification of areas within the hospital where there may have been infection control lapses.” The areas that were exposed to positive patients are also being disinfected, continues the statement. “At this stage more than 150 tests have been conducted within the hospital and contact tracing is underway. We have advised that more tests be done on both staff and patients in order to determine the true extent of the existence of the infection in the facility, which may call for further interventions.” As part of intensifying the contact tracing and testing process, MEC Simelane-Zulu has also requested that Netcare avails a list of its patients that were exposed to the hospital as from the beginning of March. If you were a patient at St Augustine’s Hospital from 1 March 2020 to date, you are asked to contact the KZN Department of Health. In March, Johannesburg-listed Netcare said it was providing facilities, free-of-charge, to help in the battle against the coronavirus pandemic.
  • The Solidarity Fund will pay for at least 5m protective medical face masks, according to reports, while the Western Cape’s provincial treasury is to distribute thousands of food parcels. More than 3,000 individuals donated amounts ranging from R1,000 to R100,000 while some of the donations came from large corporations and medium-sized businesses, reports the Sunday Times. Chairperson of the fund, businesswoman Gloria Serobe, is reported as saying: “We are heartened by what has been achieved in the two weeks since the fund was announced. The willingness and speed with which our people have responded gives us hope for the challenging times that lie ahead.” She told the newspaper that money received has already been used for activities that will be critical to saving lives, including the purchase of 5-million medical masks. “By next week, these masks will arrive where they’re needed most to protect doctors, nurses, and community health workers on the front line,” Serobe told reporters.
  • The Western Cape’s Provincial Treasury has approved the allocation of R53m additional funding for emergency food relief programmes that will run across the Western Cape. It says the allocation of funds for the emergency food provision plan includes R20m to distribute 50,000 food parcels, each of which will support a family of four for one month.
  • Transnet is re-starting some of its operations to facilitate the delivery of commodities and supplies, its bosses have told the Reuters news agency. South African logistics firm Transnet said on Friday it would resume the transport of non-essential goods including minerals and other commodities during a nationwide lockdown, after reducing those services in the past week. “The transport and handling of all cargo from South African ports of entry to their intended destination was no longer prohibited, it said. State-owned Transnet previously said it would reduce transport services and non-essential cargo operations after a 21-day lockdown was imposed last Thursday to contain the spread of the coronavirus, with port authorities halting the export of mineral commodities at bulk terminals. But the logistics company said the decision has now been revoked after the government amended the disaster management regulations on Thursday.” Transnet operates nearly three quarters of the African rail network, the bulk of which is in South Africa, says Reuters.
  • ArcelorMittal is the latest to use Force Majeure as a reason not to pay its suppliers, staff. ArcelorMittal South Africa has issued force majeure notices to customers and suppliers “where appropriate” as a nationwide three-week lockdown impacts the South African subsidiary of one of the world’s biggest steel manufacturers, reports Reuters. Arcelormittal South Africa also said it has cut salaries for all employees with effect from this month, for a “likely” period of three months.
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