The South African Department of Health, continues to closely monitor the rapidly evolving developments surrounding the Coronavirus outbreak. The World Health Organisation provides us with daily situational updates and continues to inform us should there be revisions in guidelines.
It has come to our attention that, for the second time, there are allegations of Coronavirus in the Western Cape. We wish to categorically refute these claims and confirm that, to date, there is no case of Coronavirus in South Africa
The WHO-AFRO has announced that, to date, 71 samples have been received by our National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD) from all over Africa and all these specimens have tested negative for Coronavirus.
Hong Kong reported the second fatality outside of mainland China yesterday. The 39-year-old patient who succumbed to Coronavirus had travelled to Wuhan and had a pre-existing condition. This reinforces the evidence that Coronavirus fatalities are more commonly associated with population groups whose immunity may be compromised by age or co-morbidities. It also affirms that a history of travelling to China or being in contact with someone who travelled to China remains a key factor in identifying those at risk. Evidence continues to support the theory that asymptomatic carriers are not key drivers of the spread of Coronavirus.
We continue to intensify screening at all ports of entry with a particular focus on our major airports of entry. This approach remains supported as the vast majority of cases are introduced into territories outside of China by air travellers. We have deployed additional staff and asked for the assistance of medical staff from the National Defence Force to beef up screening where additional capacity was needed.
There is 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.
We are encouraged by the emerging statistics which show that as the numbers of affected people increases, the morbidity and mortality rate decreases, suggesting that the virus is not as virulent as those strains which caused SARS and MERS. The in-hospital recovery rate is exceeding the in-hospital mortality rate. The vast majority of patients experience mild to moderate flu-like symptoms. The Chinese system has also been sensitized towards Coronavirus and so the detection rate is currently extremely high.
There are now strict rules in place regarding the movement of people between territories in China. They have also fine-tuned regulations on trade and logistics to ensure that food security and essential amenities remain protected whilst at the same time not enabling the spread of the virus.
We have been advised that the Chinese Holiday and the school and university holidays have been extended. Additionally, Chinese authorities are now screening all travellers that intend leaving China before they are able to purchase a ticket. Any traveller that is found to have a red flag in the screening process is denied further leave to travel until Coronavirus is excluded.
Activities that involve large crowds, such as sporting activities, cinemas, etc have been shut down in China.
Any foreign traveller in China who has been subjected to the lockdown rules will be provided with housing, food and essential amenities at the cost of the Chinese government
China continues to receive aid from across the sectors- whilst we applaud and welcome the pledges of support this is also an expected and necessary outcome of the WHO’s declaration of a Public Health Emergency of International Concern
Scientists in China, and indeed all over the world, continue to work hard to find effective treatment and to develop a vaccine for 2019nCoV.
African countries outside of South Africa will make their own pronouncements on their response to the Coronavirus and we expect that, should there be a confirmed case, we will hear from the affected country’s authorities or the World Health Organisation.
Reliable, credible information on Coronavirus can be obtained from the WHO website and social media pages, the National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD) website and social media pages and the Department of Health Website and Social Media Pages. We continue to receive a high number of calls through the designated hospitals or the clinician’s 24 hour hotline. Anyone who experiences flu-like symptoms with a travel history or contact with someone who has travelled, particularly to China, should seek immediate medical attention at their nearest clinic, GP or hospital.
The Emergency Operation Centre remains activated.
For Further Enquiries
Dr Lwazi Manzi
MLO Ministry of Health