The number of positive Covid-19 cases continues to rise in SA. Picture:
The number of positive Covid-19 cases continues to rise in SA. Picture:

The government is to inject an extra R20bn into the national health budget to shore up its efforts to slow transmission of Covid-19 and ramp up its capacity to care for the sick, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced on Tuesday evening.

The “extraordinary health budget” is equivalent to 8.7% of the R230bn set aside for health in the 2020/2021 fiscal year in the February budget.

SA was still at the early stages of the pandemic, and the government’s “foremost priority” was to intensify the health interventions needed to contain and delay the spread of the  virus, said Ramaphosa.

As of Tuesday, SA had 3,465 confirmed cases of Covid-19, with 1,055 recorded recoveries and 58 deaths. The figures are dwarfed by the global tally, which stood at over 2.54 million cases and 174,000 deaths on Tuesday, according to the Johns Hopkins University tracker. SA’s figures are however growing rapidly. Eastern Cape for example, has seen its cases double in the past week to 345.

“If we are to successfully manage the anticipated surge in cases and ensure that everyone who needs treatment receives it, we must provide for additional expenditure on personal protective equipment for health workers, community screening, an increase in testing capacity, additional beds in field hospitals, ventilators, medicine and staffing,” Ramaphosa said in a televised address

The scale of the gaps in SA’s health system were laid bare in a presentation to parliament earlier in April, when the health department’s acting director-general Anban Pillay told MP’s that the country had less than half the ventilators it expected to need at the peak of the Covid-19 crisis.

He also highlighted the huge quantities of personal protective equipment required over the next six months, despite recent donations by Alibaba co-founder Jack Ma, the Chinese government, and donors supporting the Solidarity Fund. At that stage the government still needed to source 100-million surgical masks for health-care workers and patients, and 10.3-million N95 respirators.

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