Funerals become hotspots of COVID-19 infections in South Africa

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Citizens line up outside a supermarket in Johannesburg, South Africa, April 2, 2020. The spread of COVID-19 continued unabated in South Africa on Thursday, with 82 new cases reported, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said.
Citizens line up outside a supermarket in Johannesburg, South Africa, April 2, 2020. The spread of COVID-19 continued unabated in South Africa on Thursday, with 82 new cases reported, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said.

Funerals have been found to pose the biggest risk for the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic in South Africa, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said Tuesday.

“We have observed a rapid rise in the number of confirmed cases (from funerals) and this raised a concern,” Mkhize said.

The minister made the remarks after visiting the Eastern Cape province, where a large number of confirmed cases involved people who had attended funerals shortly before they tested for the new coronavirus..

“The biggest risk of spread that has been identified is the cultural practices occurring at funerals,” Mkhize said.

South Africa has been under lockdown since March 27. The lockdown regulations ban public gatherings except for funerals with less than 100 participants.

As of Tuesday, Eastern Cape reported 345 confirmed cases, up by 35 from Monday, Mkhize said, without giving a specific number of infections as a result of attending funerals.

“We immediately took a decision to urgently deploy more medical experts including senior epidemiologists, analysts and field consultants to reinforce the provincial team,” Mkhize said.

He said the World Health Organization (WHO) has also assisted the province by deploying more clinicians and experts.

“We have also deployed senior officials from the National Department of Health to do a proper audit of the available personal protective equipment and other requirements,” the minister said.

This is to ensure the safety and adequate protection of the health workers who are at the forefront, Mkhize said.

He reiterated that no health worker should be exposed to the risk of infection.

They must all be adequately trained on the infection prevention and control and be protected at all times, Mkhize said.

He said the total number of cases in South Africa stood at 3,465 as of Tuesday, an increase of 165 from Monday’s figure, while the death toll remained at 58.

The total number of tests conducted to date is 126,937, of which 5,427 were done in the last 24 hours, he said. Enditem

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