Health minister Zweli Mkhize. Picture: FREDDY MAVUNDA
Health minister Zweli Mkhize. Picture: FREDDY MAVUNDA

Health minister Zweli Mkhize has told parliament his department will spend another R9bn to continue the fight against Covid-19.

Mkhize was addressing the National Assembly during a debate on the 2021/2022 budget for his department. He said most of his department’s service delivery projects had to be pushed back to reprioritise resources towards fighting the pandemic.

“The impact of Covid-19 has emphasised the necessity of investing in long-term resilience and sustainability of health systems to enable us to better respond to future health emergencies and crises,” said Mkhize, while delivering his R62.5bn budget.

He said the pandemic had caused social and economic devastation globally, and he was concerned that a third wave of Covid-19 infections was on the horizon as the winter season entered full swing.

“In our country, this [Covid-19] resulted in 1.6-million positive cases, 10.9-million tests done and 54,968 associated lives were lost, although 95% of those affected have recovered.

“The Covid-19 cases have started to rise significantly and we may find ourselves in the third wave. Of concern has been the emergence of B.1.351 in our country and the importation of B1.617.2 variant from India and B.1.1.7 from the UK,” he said.

Mkhize said citizens had the responsibility to continue abiding by non-pharmaceutical interventions to reduce the risk of infection and prevent a third wave of infections. On Monday the government is due to begin phase 2 of the national vaccination programme, which is targeting those older than 60, along with citizens with comorbidities such as hypertension and diabetes.

This comes as the government is pushing to conclude the Sisonke Johnson & Johnson (J&J) vaccination rollout, targeting about 500,000 health-care workers.

When phase 2 of the vaccination programme starts, some members of the population will be inoculated with the J&J vaccine while others will receive the double-dose Pfizer vaccine.

TimesLIVE

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