ANC treasurer-general Zweli Mkhize. Picture: TREVOR SAMSON
ANC treasurer-general Zweli Mkhize. Picture: TREVOR SAMSON

If SA’s growing outbreak of Covid-19 is not swiftly contained, the government could impose a state of emergency, institute lockdowns, and quarantine people away from their homes, health minister Zweli Mkhize warned on Monday.

The number of confirmed cases has doubled every two days since SA’s first case was announced on March 5, and now stands at 61, with a further four awaiting validation by the National Health Laboratory Service, he said. At least 1,000 contacts are being traced.

“That is not just exponential. It is an explosive rise in cases. It is important for us to suppress the curve, and reduce the speed at which it is happening. We need to move into higher gear.

“We are determined to take hard decisions if need be. We cannot rule out a need in the future to impose a state of emergency,” he said.

Mkhize said it was vital for SA to slow the spread of the SARS-Covid-2 virus, which causes Covid-19 or the health system would buckle. While most cases of Covid-19 are mild, 15% of patients are expected to require hospitalisation, a third of whom will need to be admitted to intensive care units, he said.

The government was also worried about the potential spread of Covid-19 in poor communities.

“It will create a new dynamic and the need to create quarantine facilities. When we say quarantine, it means someone might have to move from their homes,” he said.

kahnt@businesslive.co.za