South African national hero Nelson Mandela remains in a critical condition in hospital, the government has said.
A statement from President Jacob Zuma's office on Tuesday said doctors at Pretoria's Mediclinic Heart Hospital were doing their best to ensure the "recovery, well-being and comfort" of Mandela, who was admitted to hospital more than two weeks ago with a lung infection.
On Monday, Zuma asked his country to pray for the 94-year-old Mandela, who he said was "asleep" when he visited him in the hospital.
Zuma said that doctors at the hospital were doing everything possible to help Mandela feel comfortable on his 17th day in hospital.
However, he refused to give details of Mandela's condition, saying: " I'm not a doctor ''.
The media briefing came a day after the South African government said Mandela's condition had deteriorated and was now "critical".
Zuma said South Africans should accept that Mandela was old, and he urged people to pray for the former president.
"Madiba is critical in the hospital, and this is the father of democracy. This is the man who fought and sacrificed his life to stay in prison, the longest-serving prisoner in South Africa,'' Zuma said, using Mandela's clan name.
Mac Maharaj, the presidential spokesman, said that an arrangement had been reached for information about Mandela to be provided through a "single source in an authoritative way ... to respect the privacy of the family".
He said also that the "doctor-patient confidentiality'' had to be adhered to.
Al Jazeera's Peter Greste, reporting from Pretoria, said the limited news about the man known as the "father of the nation", was causing some anxiety and frustration among South Africans who were keen to know how he was doing.
|The health of former South African president Nelson Mandela has worsened.
He said the shift in the language to statements that medical staff were keeping Mandela comfortable, suggested that Zuma's office was preparing the country for the possibility that Mandela might not be around for much longer.
"We've also seen lots of people coming to the hospital, and pasting messages of support on the walls outside the hospital," our correspondent said.
Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, Mandela's ex-wife, and daughters Zindzi Mandela-Motlhajwa and Zenani Mandela-Dlamini were seen leaving the hospital on Monday, while Mandela's eldest daughter Makaziwe rebuked the media, after saying that her father was at "peace".
"He has given so much to the world ... Whether these are the last moments with us, to be with our dad, or there is still a longer [time], but they [media] must back off," she told CNN.
Mandela, who became South Africa's first black president after the end of apartheid in 1994, was admitted to hospital for what the government said was a recurring lung infection.
This is his fourth admission to hospital since December last year.
Source: Al Jazeera and agencies