South Arica’s healthcare workers have been hit hard by Covid-19 as some 24,000 medical employees have contracted the coronavirus and 181of them have died since March, according to Health Minister Zweli Mkwize at a news conference this Wednesday.
Health worker unions have criticised the government's response to providing personal protective wear, such as masks.
South Africa is the hardest hit country on the continent and the fifth-highest in the world for Covid-19—the healthcare worker cases make up five percent of the total nationwide, and the numbers have been rising over the past few weeks.
South Africa passed the 500,000 case mark last weekend.
Some good news
Mkwize had some positive news, however, as the three top South African hotspots, Gauteng, Western Cape, and Eastern Cape, which have seen steep rises in cases, seem to have slowed infections.
"The number of new infections is increasing at a lower rate than what had been happening in the whole of June and up to the middle of July,” said Mkhize, in reference to Gauteng, which has some 183,000 cases alone.
Western Cape is currently at 97,000 cases, while Eastern Cape has 80,000 cases.
“That clearly indicates to us that there is a declining trend," he said, adding that the surges in infections might have peaked, but it is too early to say.
"We may well be over this peak sometime towards the end of August. But if we don't insist on distancing and use of masks we actually can have a second surge," he said.
Although South Africa was on a strict lockdown, which included no alcohol, there was a surge of some 13,000 Covid-19 cases in June after the lockdown was lifted.
KwaZulu-Natal and Free State also have high case rates, according to the minister. Hospitals are still running to capacity, but are not overwhelmed.
"We are not out of the woods yet, because those who are managing the admissions and treatment and hospitalisation of patients can still feel that the wards are full," he said.