The Department of Health says South Africa is thus far coronavirus free, and claims that flu shots can prevent the virus, are untrue. “There have been false claims that experts are encouraging people to get flu shots to prevent coronavirus. I wish to stress that there is, at this stage, no vaccine for coronavirus, although there is a lot of work going into developing a vaccine,” department spokesperson Dr Lwazi Manzi said.
“We confirm that there is no case of coronavirus in SA. We continue to intensify screening at all ports of entry with a particular focus on our major airports of entry.”
Manzi said there was still no recommendation to restrict travel or trade with China.
“We have not put any restriction on travel or trade between China and South Africa although we do continue to advise that non- essential travel should be delayed until the situation abates.”
She said there had been “emerging developments” in the last 24 hours, including that Germany had reported the first case of third-generation transmission of the virus.
“The first death outside of China was reported in the Philippines. The 44-year-old gentleman was a resident of Wuhan city who had traveled to the Philippines.”
Manzi said the virus had been cultured from the stool for the first time from a patient who only presented with diarrhea and no other symptoms.
“This has raised the possibility of faeco-oral transmission. The best way to prevent any infection that can be transmitted by the faeco-oral route is regular handwashing, in particular, for breast- or bottle-feeding mothers. Therefore, the message of regular handwashing cannot be stressed enough.”
China’s ambassador to South Africa Lin Songtian was expected to brief the media on the virus outbreak in his country in Pretoria on Monday.
Meanwhile, the DA has called for a parliamentary debate of national importance on the coronavirus and other pandemics.
The party said a debate in terms of Section 130 (1-8) of the National Assembly rules will allow Health Minister Dr. Zweli Mkhize to inform the nation of government’s readiness for the pandemic.
“It is crucial that the executive tables in parliament an inter-ministerial strategy,” DA health spokesperson Siviwe Gwarube said in a statement on Sunday.
She also pointed out that the DA’s call for a debate of national importance is “not an alarmist tool”, but a way in which to ensure that Parliament is at the center of finding solutions.
Gwarube said the DA was of the view that South Africa had deep cause for concern, adding that Botswana’s first suspected case of the coronavirus indicated that the virus is at the country’s border.
“As South Africa becomes a more global country, we need to have solid strategies to deal with such pandemics – not solely due to the current coronavirus outbreak,” Gwarube said.
The DA believed it was important that Mkhize and International Relations and Cooperation Minister Naledi Pandor work together to deal with the issue.
“It is now clear that the emergency protocols we have put in place may not be enough to prevent the virus from entering our borders, and that stricter measures need to be put in place at all our ports of entry nationwide,” Gwarube said.
“It is now also critical that all airports and other major transport hubs be prepared for the spread of this virus. We cannot be too cautious on this matter, as millions of citizens’ lives may be in danger,” she said.
“The DA will be requesting that this debate be scheduled as soon as possible, as it is essential that we ensure the safety and good health of all our citizens.”