High Court scuppers Mkhize’s plans for pre-emptive state quarantine

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This week Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize again raised the possibility of compulsory state quarantine as a pre-emptive measure for those potentially at risk, in order to “really move ahead of the infection curve” in the Western Cape, writes MedicalBrief. Just a day later, any such strategy was handed a likely death blow when Afriforum won a High Court challenge against enforced state quarantine for those able to self-isolate.

A fortnight ago, speaking in the Eastern Cape, he said that everyone testing positive to COVID-19, even if they were asymptomatic, would be isolated. But is a strategy that has been opposed by the SA Medical Association and seems certain to be legally tested by civil society groups and challenged in the Pretoria High Court by Afriforum. The court ruled that those who are able to self-isolate at home should be allowed to do so. Only if they broke quarantine could the Health department make enforce state quarantine.

Dr Joe Phaahla, the deputy-minister of Health, said on eNCA, commenting on the judgment, that it had been unnecessary for Afriforum to go to court. “Government policy allows for those who are able to self-quarantine to do so,” he said. If, however, they lacked the facilities to do so, they would be moved into state facilities.

The Times reports that Mkhize was speaking during a tour of the Western Cape to check preparedness in South Africa’s COVID-19 epicentre. It quotes Mkhize as saying that with  one in nine of those tested in the Western Cape being positive for COVID-19, the province could soon quarantine those who live in high-risk areas and are at risk of complications. This would  includes the elderly and those with underlying conditions.

In addition to efforts to increase hospital beds in the province Mkhize said special focus will be directed to the province’s most vulnerable: those with comorbidities. “There is also going to be an effort to take those who might be at risk or vulnerable and put them into quarantine where it’s possible, so that you can actually reduce the risk of those who can be exposed,” he said.

Mkhize said there was already a clear picture of where these vulnerable people live, and health teams will be visiting their communities to determine who these people and where they reside. “Out of that process they will then be visited and be tested before they even get sick or before they get infected, so that we are able to really move ahead of the infection curve,” he said.

“Out of that process they will then be visited and be tested before they even get sick or before they get infected, so that we are able to really move ahead of the infection curve,” he said.

Just over a fortnight ago, Daily Dispatch reported that Mkhize said everyone who tested positive for COVID-19, even if they were asymptomatic, would be admitted to isolation facilities as a way of containing the spread of the virus. Mkhize and Eastern Cape Health MEC Sindiswa Gomba were addressing the media at the Cecilia Makiwane Hospital in Mdantsane after hours of a closed meeting with Premier Oscar Mabuyane and senior government officials.

Mkhize did not provide detail on how the government would carry out admissions to its hospitals and quarantine facilities, and it is not clear from the report whether this was to be an Eastern Cape or national initiative. “It still means they can still be taken for admission in hospital, not because they need to be treated but because we need to keep them in a place where the body can fight the virus away from the community that could easily get infected,” Mkhize said.

Full report in The Times




Mkhize: State quarantine for all who test positive to COVID-19

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