Deputy Health Minister Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo. Picture; Doctor Ngcobo/African News Agency(ANA)
Deputy Health Minister Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo. Picture; Doctor Ngcobo/African News Agency(ANA)

Provincial plans to be consolidated into a national resurgence plan for Covid-19: Deputy Minister Dhlomo

By Mayibongwe Maqhina Time of article published Dec 1, 2021

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DEPUTY Health Minister Sibongiseni Dhlomo said yesterday the national department was collating all provincial plans to ascertain their readiness for a possible fourth wave of the Covid-19 virus.

Speaking during an oral question session in the National Council of Provinces (NCOP), Dhlomo said provinces had been given a checklist of what should be in place, including a human resources strategy.

“Each province is in the process of finalising the provincial resurgence plan. These plans will be consolidated into a national resurgence plan,” he said.

Dhlomo also said senior technical managers had been allocated to work with the provinces that had experienced challenges during the second and third waves.

“The national Department of Health has engaged with provincial departments and other stakeholders in order to understand the challenges experienced by the health system during the previous waves and to ensure lessons have been learnt and plans are in place to prevent and respond to the anticipated fourth wave,” he said.

The deputy minister said the readiness of health facilities played a key role in preparing for the fourth wave, and that there was adequate oxygen supplies.

Respiratory devices and consumables at health facilities were a critical component of providing care to the increased number of patients who would require hospitalisation during the fourth wave.

“The oxygen task team meets every week to ensure readiness of health facilities and is working with oxygen service providers to ensure that continuity plans are in place,” Dhlomo said.

He added that in order to address increased movement and social gatherings, the risk and communication work-stream was busy making a plan on how to navigate the festive season and safer holiday campaigns.

Asked if there were specific plans for Gauteng, which was likely to be the epicentre of the Omicron variant, Dhlomo said nothing was dismantled in terms of readiness after the end of the third wave in terms of human resource plans and equipment.

“We did not dismantle infrastructure. We kept the experience and the skills that was there,” he said.

“We were very much, through the Ministerial Advisory Committee (MAC) to the minister, kept updated that there would be another wave, so don’t dismantle,” he said.

In Gauteng, there are 4 407 beds in public health hospitals that have been reserved specifically for Covid-19.

“They were kept for the third wave but only 2 300 were used,” he said, adding that there was a similar situation in other provinces.

“We continue to find (availability) in all provinces monitoring of PPEs, water supply, electricity and back-up support and medical waste disposal,” he said.

Dhlomo also said a total of 6 309 employees for Covid-19 in Gauteng were kept and remained on contract.

“We do understand some of our provinces are struggling. Our solace is what we get as a guide from scientists.

“If we vaccinate, this wave won’t be heavy like the three others. We continue to monitor and support them where necessary,” he said.

He told delegates to the NCOP that there were 25 million vaccine doses that had been administered in the country.

“That translates to 41% of the adult population that has been vaccinated. We would have wanted more than 41%, but we want to increase this number,” he said.

The deputy minister said they are still encouraging South Africans to get vaccinated.

“It is unlikely that this new variant would have a devastating effect on individuals who are vaccinated. People who are vaccinated, even if re-infected or admitted, don’t do as badly as people who are unvaccinated, so we urge South Africans to continue to vaccinate,” Dhlomo said.

On Sunday President Cyril Ramaphosa said the government had set up a task team that would undertake broad consultations on making vaccination mandatory for specific activities and locations.

Dhlomo said the government was considering mandatory vaccination, despite the individual rights of those refusing to take Covid-19 vaccines.

“You would be protected to some extent. You won't go to ICU and you won't have a prolonged hospitalisation, and, obviously, you will escape death. That is what we really aim to push as a government,” Dhlomo said.

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Political Bureau

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