Johannesburg – Acting Health Minister, Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane, has reassured the citizens of Gauteng that government is working around the clock to ramp up bed capacity to deal with the third wave of Covid-19 infections.
While the Nasrec Field Hospital has been closed, Kubayi-Ngubane said other health facilities have been “activated” to deal with the influx of patients.
“The province had challenges [with field hospitals] and there were limitations in terms of utilisation of the hospitals – that’s why they were no longer used because we couldn’t justify the cost,” she said during a briefing of the National Coronavirus Command Council on Tuesday.
The 1000-bed Nasrec Field Hospital was set up to help alleviate the burden of COVID-19 patients at clinics and hospitals across the province during the first two waves.
In the meantime, the Minister said more work has been done to ensure there is enough bed capacity in Gauteng, which is currently the epicentre of the pandemic.
The province will benefit from the newly opened AngloGold Ashanti Hospital, Jubilee Hospital, Bronkhorstspruit Hospital, and the Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital that has recently been extended.
“These hospitals are doing exactly what the field hospital at Nasrec was doing. The information I’ve been receiving is that they have not been full to capacity,” the Minister explained, adding that the 300-bed Jubilee Hospital has not been full beyond 50%.
“We do have the capacity in terms of the general wards and work continues,” she added.
In addition, Gauteng is working on providing more resources to recruit more healthcare workers.
She said government was monitoring beds in Gauteng and the entire country and that they are seeing more pressure in the private health sector.
In addition, she announced there are no oxygen supply challenges.
Meanwhile, the Minister addressed the decision to terminate the usage of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine in light of the Delta variant, which was first discovered in India.
In February, South Africa suspended the rollout of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine after studies showed that it was less effective against the mutated COVID-19 501Y.V2 variant, which was common in South Africa.
The National Institute for Communicable Diseases of South Africa (NICD) said Gauteng remains the epicentre of the resurgence, accounting for an average of 65% of daily new cases.
In Gauteng, 64% of 244 genomes sequenced from May 2021 are attributed to the Beta variant, while in June 2021 this dropped to 37%. In contrast, during June, 53% of genomes from Gauteng were the Delta variant.
“The growing prevalence of Delta doesn’t mean that Beta no longer exists in the country. The decision was correct at that time because the efficacy of AstraZeneca against Beta variant seemed very low. That’s why the decision was taken.”
This comes after new studies show that two doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca may be highly effective in preventing hospitalisation due to the Delta variant.
Kubayi-Ngubane said the Alpha and Beta variants are still circulating in all provinces.
The Minister acknowledged the country will not be able to meet the target of vaccinating over five million senior citizens by the end of June.
This is mainly due to vaccine hesitancy, lack of technology for some of these citizens to sign up and the vaccination centres that are located far from people’s residences.
However, she said her department was addressing all these issues.
She said there was still an issue around the payment of overtime for those who will be vaccinating on weekends.
The Ministers who serve in the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC) were outlining measures to ensure compliance with the regulations in the fight against the spread of COVID-19 in South Africa.
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