The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the country, as of Thursday, stands at 1 462.

The Minister of Health, Dr Zweli Mkhize, announced the increase in cases at Universitas Hospital in the Free State, where he met with the COVID-19 task team in the province. A mass screening and testing is now underway there.

Five deaths have been recorded, with two yet to be confirmed.

The Free State became a hotbed for COVID-19 infections after several people, who attended a Divine Restoration Ministries church conference, tested positive.

Mkhize, who attributed the restraint of the spread to the nationwide lockdown, warned against complacency and emphasised that the country is only on the cusp of the outbreak.

“Our current projections are still indicating that we need to get out and find those who could be infected in the community.

“We are ready to fight. We are prepared. We must not be lulled into complacency,” he said.

Of the 82 new confirmed cases on Thursday, the Eastern Cape reported 2; Free State 8; Gauteng 18; KwaZulu-Natal 20; Limpopo 2; Mpumalanga 1; Western Cape 27, with four cases that were unallocated.

On the number of COVID-19 deaths, the Health Minister said the department was still awaiting verification on two cases. He also announced 45 Coronavirus recoveries in the country.

On contact tracing in the Free State, Mkhize said of the 1 700 contacts identified from COVID-19 positive patients in the province, 1 600 contacts have been traced thus far.   

State of readiness

With 86 Coronavirus cases in the Free State, the COVID-19 task team outlined its state of readiness for the imminent influx of patients.

Universitas Hospital Infectious Disease Specialist, Dr Samantha Potgieter, said about 70 ward beds have been prepared.

“This includes areas where we will be able to isolate patients, who are under investigation,” she said.

Potgieter outlined that patients will be tested and deviated accordingly following tests to ensure patients are protected.

Additionally, the procurement of personal protective equipment for healthcare professionals and staff is underway, and 16 COVID-19 Intensive Care Units have been set up, with plans for expansion.

COVID-19 task team chairperson, Nicholas Pierce, said the task team has introduced a concept that they will roll out at Universitas — a PEEP [positive end-expiratory pressure] unit.

Procurement, for the unit, which will assist COVID-19 patients with oxygen, is also underway. –

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