Parliament agrees to the DA’s request for a debate of national importance on Coronavirus

The DA welcomes the Speaker of the National Assembly, Thandi Modise’s decision to grant a debate of national importance on the state of South Africa’s readiness to deal with COVID-19, also known as the Coronavirus.

This request was made in accordance with Section 130 (1-8) of the National Assembly rules. Today, the Programming Committee agreed that the debate will take place on Thursday 5 March 2020.

A debate of national importance will afford the Minister of Health, Dr Zweli Mkhize, an opportunity to address Parliament and the nation on the readiness of the Department of Health to deal with this global pandemic. Additionally, it is crucial that the executive tables an inter-ministerial strategy on this issue.

The reality is that the Coronavirus continues wreak havoc across the globe and most recently on the continent. This has health, economic and international relations consequences for the country. This is why an inter-ministerial plan is critical in order to ensure that all bases are covered.

Globally, more than 82 000 people have been infected with the virus, with more than 2 800 confirmed deaths. Although the virus has mainly spread through China, cases have been confirmed in Algeria and Egypt. On Tuesday, the World Health Organization (WHO) warned that the window of opportunity that Africa has had to prepare for the novel coronavirus is fast closing.

In addition to the broader plan by the executive to deal with this Coronavirus and its implications, Minister Mkhize should take the nation into his confidence about the readiness of the selected facilities that would quarantine patients and the screening protocols that are in place at all our ports of entry.

The South African health system is under severe strain as it is. A health crisis like this one could very well dissipate our ability to function. That is why every measure must be taken to ensure that we are prepared for every eventuality. While early detection is key, it is critical that the health system readies itself for a full flown outbreak.

South Africa is a global country and a big player on the world stage. Our government must be responsive to such issues and Parliament is the appropriate platform for the Minister and other members of the executive to showcase their plans.