In a move that seems certain to be legally tested if carried out, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize now claims everyone who has tested positive for COVID-19, even if they are asymptomatic, will 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, notes a Daily Dispatch report.
Mkhize did not provide much 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 is 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,” he said.
It was reported last month that some of those infected had refused to self-isolate or go into quarantine or hospital in some parts of the Eastern Cape. “We call on our people to co-operate with our programmes to contain the virus,” Mkhize said.
It is a move opposed by the SA Medical Association (Sama) in the Western Cape, which rejected an earlier call to put people who have tested positive for COVID-19 under quarantine in field hospitals. A TimesLIVE report says Mkhize announced on Saturday that everyone in the Western Cape who tested positive for COVID-19 would be confined to a hospital if doctors are not satisfied the person can self-isolate properly.
“The suggested approach is illogical, given that 50%-80% of the population infected with SARS-CoV-2 are either asymptomatic, pre-symptomatic and hence already infectious, or have mild COVID-19, which does not require hospitalisation. Self-isolation at their homes is advised and is completely appropriate. If this is not possible for social, practical or other legitimate reasons, alternatives are then required,” Sama said.
The organisation is of the opinion that hospital admissions should never be the default, even if such hospitals are to be the so-called field hospitals. “Our hospital resource needs to be judiciously utilised and not used as an extended lockdown facility for infected patients.”
The Democratic Alliance (DA) has written to the Speaker of the National Assembly, Thandi Modise, to schedule oral question sessions with Mkhize and other frontline departments every two weeks for the duration of the pandemic, according to the party’s health spokesperson Siviwe Gwarubein a statement on the Politicsweb site. It says this comes at the back of reports that the government is withholding key information on the data and modelling of COVID-19 in fear of causing public panic.
“This reasoning does little to inspire public confidence or promote transparency and accountability. Sharing the data and the modelling that the government is using to make key interventions in dealing with this crisis ensures that the public remains a partner in the fight against COVID-19 and will undoubtedly mean we will beat this together,” says Gwarubein.Full Daily Dispatch report Full TimesLIVE report Statement on the Politicsweb site