South Africa: Protective Gear Consignment Arriving This Weekend

Government is ramping up efforts to make sure that every health worker has protective gear as soon as next week.

Health Deputy Minister Joe Phaahla made the assurance during a ministerial press briefing on Friday, where he said the government would be getting stock from this weekend and early next week.

The health worker unions have been putting pressure on government to provide health care workers with personal protective equipment (PPE), with Nehawu threatening to take Health Minister Zweli Mkhize to court over the matter.

There were also concerns that healthcare professionals were putting their lives at risk of contracting COVID-19.

This comes after President Cyril Ramaphosa announced a 21-day lockdown to curb the spread of the virus in the country.

According to the World Health Organisation, health workers are at the front line of the COVID-19 outbreak response and often vulnerable to the dangers that the virus exposes to them.

"Government is very much committed [to ensuring] that personal protective equipment is provided to all our health workers both in the public and private health sector services."

He admitted that they were delays due to the unavailability of the equipment that is largely produced in China, which was the epicentre of the epidemic.

Therefore, this limited the capacity to produce enough equipment, reducing the number of exports, he explained.

"When the disease spread to the other parts of the world, especially in America and Europe, the demand for this equipment has been rising," Phaahla said.

The weaker Rand, which continues to plummet against foreign major currencies, caused a delay and sourcing the required goods was further exacerbated by the cargo ships and airfreight restrictions, which have since been relaxed by government.

"The department is working with the Department of Trade and Industry and the National Treasury. We have also brought in partnerships from organised business to make sure that these matters are addressed. We are very confident, having identified what are the key equipment, who are the key suppliers, working together with business," he said.

Phaahla said the department had also received assistance from the Department of International Relations and Cooperation and the government of China.

He said a centralised system would be used to distribute the equipment to provinces.

"We can assure the nation that this matter is being addressed and we will start to see a lot of improvement in the coming week," he said.

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