Government must capitalise on breathing room as a Covid resurgence is still possible, Newsline

Durban – Only time will tell if fears of a coronavirus resurgence are justified and if the government’s rebranded ministerial advisory committee is up to the task of carving out a plan to resuscitate the country.

The week began on the backdrop of the World Health Organisation expressing concerns over a six percent increase in confirmed Covid-19 cases over a seven day window in the country.

President Cyril Ramaphosa, during his lockdown level one announcement, said although the country weathered the brunt of the Covid-19 storm a possible resurgence could still occur.

Speaking to the Sunday Tribune, Professor Salim Abdool Karim, clinical infectious diseases epidemiologist and chairperson of the ministerial advisory committee on Covid-19, said the chance of a resurgence was in our hands.

“There is still no clear cut way or handbook telling us what and when Covid events will occur but what we can do is make monitor data for upward trends. If there is an inclination then we will have to observe a 14 day period to see how rapid or large of an increase there was. We need to get to low transmissions which is about 580 new cases per day. The next few weeks are crucial,” he said.

He said outbreaks would be dealt on a localised level.

“Lockdowns are a last resort as its impact are significant. We would start with outbreak investigations, similar to what occurred at St Augustine’s hospital. We determine how and why it happened and the extent of damage that could be done and address it accordingly,” said Karim

Karim said while restrictions eased, personal responsibility increased as government was no longer holding the country’s hand.

“Government has given us the freedom to go about our business but hand hygiene, social distancing and mask-wearing are still vital. Time must now be used to increase our care capacities, hospital surveillance, contact tracing and testing so when the need arises we are not caught off-guard like last time.”

Last Monday, September 21, ended with a cumulative number of 661 936 confirmed cases.

This Monday citizens went to bed with the news that the cumulative total tallied at 671 669 confirmed cases. But data in the coming week will be scrutinised as the country waits with bated breath.

However Health minister Zwelini Mkhize announced a “strengthened” Ministerial Advisory Committee with the goal of recuperating the country while keeping the shields up.

“We have now confirmed, both with the NICD and World Health Organisation Surge Team reports, that we are now past the surge and we re-evaluated our national response and identified new challenges requiring new approaches,” he said.

MAC was established on March 30 consisting of pathologists, laboratory practitioners, clinicians, public health practitioners and researchers.

Mkhize said the true test lied in achieving and maintaining low transmission rates which required a holistic approach to case management, preventive measures and public policy.

“The reinforced MAC consists of bio-medical practitioners, clinical experts, specialists in ethics, nursing, social scientists, researchers, faith-based organisations, organised labour and civic society to advise on responding to the epidemic and influence behavioural change mitigated Covid-19 spreading,” he said.

Chairperson Karim, Professor Marc Mendelson, Professor Sthembiso Mkhize, Professor Rudo Mathivha and Professor Nombulelo Magula were retained from the MAC’s previous iteration.

Mkhize said the MAC team were outstanding but progress needed to be maintained.

“We believe the MACs as they stand now more accurately reflected the country’s health needs and economic response to rebuild our lives after the wreckage of the storm. These experts stand ready to give their expertise, commitment, and passion, turning ideas into action and innovation.”

SUNDAY TRIBUNE