Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize has announced substantial changes to the Ministerial Advisory Committee on COVID-19, pulling in social and behavioural scientists because of “the changing pattern of the pandemic”, as well as the creation of a new MAC focusing on vaccine development
He also said in a statement that the department is currently conducting a national seroprevalence study, which should unveil the actual seroprevalence of coronavirus antibodies and status of national immunity. “South Africa has seen the surge receding and thus raises the question of the level of immunity that may already be existing in society,” Mkhize said.
According to the model of COVID-19, the initial seroprevalence studies from convenience samples have shown seroprevalence of between 29% and 40%.
“Interestingly, the revised models currently predict that there are probably about 12m South Africans in total – detected and undetected – infected with coronavirus. This translates to about 20% of the population,” said Mkhize.
Mkhize said the number of detected cases countrywide continues to be on a downward spiral since 22 August 2020, when the country reported under 3,000 cases. This was down from between 10,000 and 15,000 cases a day at the peak of the pandemic in July.
Patients under investigation, general ward admissions, ICU admissions, deaths and excess deaths are on the decline, the department said. “Consistency across these indicators reassures us that indeed, we are in the midst of a trough in the pandemic.”
The latest report released by the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) also indicated that the discharge rate from the hospital was 75%, while the in-hospital case fatality ratio was 17.5%. “At the height of the epidemic, these sample hospitals were reporting between 6,400 and 6,800 admissions per week,” said Mkhize.
Out of the more than 15,000 COVID-19 fatalities in the country to date, at least 257 have been health-care workers, Mhize said. A total of 15,641 patients had succumbed to the virus. The cumulative number of infections is now 651,521 while there have been 583,126 recoveries.
The recovery rate stands at 89.5%.
Mkhize shared a provincial breakdown of the number of health-care workers who had contracted the virus and succumbed to it as of 11 September. He said 257 of them died in hospital.
Mkhize said that occupational health and safety committees (OHS) are now established in 3,849 public health facilities. As per the previous directive, members of unions must be represented in all these structures. This will assist in constant monitoring of issues affecting health workers including where there is shortage of PPE.
Mhkize also said that with the changing pattern of the pandemic, it has become necessary to reconfigure the Ministerial Advisory Committee on COVID-19. The new MAC will take into account the need for the inclusion of social and behavioural scientists amongst other factors.
In addition to the multi-sectoral MAC focusing on community mobilisation, another MAC has been created to focus on coronavirus vaccine development (MAC on Vaccine).
This MAC will advise us on all matters pertaining to the coronavirus vaccine development and rollout- from monitoring and reporting on progress on our candidate studies, to advising on our purchasing options and our capacity to potentially manufacture vaccines in future. This will ensure that the Health Department and government are kept abreast on all critical developments internationally relating to the vaccine.
The committee is chaired by Professor Barry Schoub, an expert in vaccinology and
The members of this MAC are:
– Dr Morena Makhoana, CEO Biovac
– Ms Glaudina Loots, Department of Science and Technology
– Dr Boitumelo Semete-Makokotlela, CEO South African Health Products Authority
– Professor Greg Hussey, Vaccines for Africa (UCT)
– Professor Jeff Mphahlele, MRC, immunologist and SAHPRA Board Member
– Professor Helen Rees, WHO expert advisor
– Professor Ames Dhai, Ethicist
– Dr Mark Blecher, National Treasury
As observers in this MAC are:
– Professor Salim Abdool Karim, chair MAC on COVID-19
– Bishop Malusi Mpumlwana, chair MAC Social and Behavioral Change
Full press release
Full statement on the Politicsweb site