SUMMARY: Health Minister updates SA on COVID-19

South Africa has recorded its first three deaths attributed to COVID-19 while the number of confirmed cases has risen over 1,326. The country has been in a state of lockdown for 14 hours. Minister of Health, Dr Zweli Mkhize will give an update on COVID-19 cases

JOHANNESBURG - Health Minister Zweli Mkhize updated the country on the ongoing battle against the spread and impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The minister informed the country on the status of The Queen Mary cruise ship. The ship left Australia on 6 March and a number of passengers experienced symptoms of COVID-19.

26 people were tested from the vessel and none tested positive.

READ: COVID-19 death toll rises to five

Six South Africans are present on the ship, who will be allowed back into the country. The rest of the passengers will be sent back home.

The six South Africans who have been repatriated will be under quarantine for 14 days.

Mkhize called on people who have been on cruise liners to be tested for the virus.

READ: Ramaphosa announces new COVID-19 strategies

Mkhize related some of the challenges facing healthcare workers, including laboratories who are under enormous pressure to generate accurate test results quickly.

The minister urged the laboratories to record information fully and accurately.

He commended the testing facilities for their successful collaboration in clearing test backlogs and communicating when they have faced problems.

READ: Mkhize: Expect more COVID-19 cases

Mkhize said the rate of infection has been slower than expected, but it still too early to say.

The minister confirmed 46 new cases of the virus, bringing the total number of COVID-19 cases to 1,353. Mkhize also said five people have died from complications from the virus.

The minister said the department is working hard to ensure health workers are protected and is working hard to procure and make sure employees are able to access protective gear.

Mkhize said the department is determined to be ahead of the curve of infection and said the step to institute a 21-day national lockdown was an important one.

He reminded South Africans to prioritise personal hygiene and stay at home.

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The NICD has another Clinician Hotline to improve #COVID19 communication and support for healthcare providers. The Clinician Hotline is 0800 11 1131, operating 24 hrs. The Public Hotline is 0800 029 999 also operating 24hrs.