South Africa readies military medics as COVID-19 cases top 40,000

53c37fadd42b4b6982bfba23731e6f96.jpgSouth African President Cyril Ramaphosa. (Photo: South African Presidency)

South Africa is preparing to send military personnel to its COVID-19 epicenter to help tackle further spread of the disease.

President Cyril Ramaphosa announced on Friday that troops were being readied for deployment to the Western Cape province, as the country’s cases surged past 40,000.

South Africa is Africa’s worst affected country by the COVID-19 pandemic, having registered 40,792 infections and 848 deaths, according to the latest data from the country’s ministry of health.

The Western Cape province, a popular tourist destination, accounts for more than 66 percent of South Africa’s infections and over 70 percent of its deaths.

The surge in infections sparked fears that the province’s health care system would soon be overwhelmed.

President Ramaphosa vowed to bring in military medical practitioners and redeploy civilian healthcare workers from other less affected provinces.

“The Western Cape is the epicentre of COVID-19 infections and this concerns us deeply,” he said during a visit to the province’s capital Cape Town.

He noted that the military was “ready to bring in defence military personnel who will be able to come to the province immediately to lend a hand”.

“We must pull out all stops to save lives.”

“This a war that we must win, we cannot sit back and be defeated by COVID-19 on the basis that we didn’t have enough staff members,” he said during a meeting with the provincial authorities led by the opposition Democratic Alliance.

In response to the COVID-19 outbreak, South Africa imposed a strict lockdown that limited movement, but which also hit the economy hard.

The government has been easing the lockdown gradually and restarting the economy, but focus remains on fighting the spread of the disease.