Coronavirus being handled with urgency, care: President

South Africans should not pan­ic but rather be alert. That is the advice from Pres­i­dent Cyril Ramaphosa fol­low­ing the announce­ment of the first case of the Coro­n­avirus in the coun­try.

The Pres­i­dent has assured that gov­ern­ment is and will con­tin­ue to demon­strate urgency and cau­tion as the coun­try deals with its first con­firmed case of Coro­n­avirus.

The Pres­i­dent on Thurs­day held an impromp­tu brief­ing short­ly after land­ing at the Waterk­loof Air­force Base in Pre­to­ria.

The Min­is­ter of Health, Dr Zweli Mkhize, had ear­li­er announced the first case of Coro­n­avirus (COVID-19) just moments before a Par­lia­men­tary debate on South Africa’s readi­ness to deal with the virus.

On Thurs­day morn­ing, the Nation­al Insti­tute for Com­mu­ni­ca­ble Dis­eases (NICD) had con­tact­ed the Min­is­ter after con­fir­ma­tion that a sus­pect­ed case of COVID-19 had test­ed pos­i­tive.

The patient is a 38-year-old male, who trav­elled to Italy with his wife. They were part of a group of 10 peo­ple and they arrived back in South Africa on 1 March 2020.

The Min­is­ter then got in touch with the Pres­i­dent, inform­ing him of the news.

“I informed him [Min­is­ter Mkhize] that he should go ahead and make the news pub­lic in Par­lia­ment so that South Africans are imme­di­ate­ly informed, so as to avoid fake news spread­ing around the coun­try, and also to have a lev­el of trans­paren­cy,” said the Pres­i­dent.

Accord­ing to the Min­ster, the patient con­sult­ed a pri­vate gen­er­al prac­ti­tion­er on 3 March with symp­toms of fever, headache, malaise, a sore throat and a cough.  The prac­tice nurse took swabs and deliv­ered it to the lab.

The patient has been self-iso­lat­ing since 3 March. The cou­ple also has two chil­dren.

A trac­er team has been deployed to KwaZu­lu-Natal with epi­demi­ol­o­gists and clin­i­cians from the NICD. The doc­tor, who han­dled the patient, has been self-iso­lat­ing as well.

The Emer­gency Oper­at­ing Cen­tre (EOC) has iden­ti­fied those who came into con­tact with the patient by inter­view­ing the patient and doc­tor.

The NICD explains that in the instance of a trav­eller, peo­ple who are most at risk are the close con­tacts of the patients. The NICD has a def­i­n­i­tion of what con­sti­tutes a close con­tact. These peo­ple will be required to self-quar­an­tine in their homes for 14 days. They will be mon­i­tored by the NICD med­ical staff to make sure that if they get any symp­toms, they are rapid­ly test­ed.

The Pres­i­dent said the imme­di­a­cy with which the case is being dealt with shows that South Africa is ready to deal with the Coro­n­avirus.

“We are in con­stant con­tact with the World Health Organ­i­sa­tion (WHO) and we also have South Africans who are work­ing at the WHO, con­stant­ly keep us up to date about this virus.

“We will keep inform­ing South Africans very open­ly and trans­par­ent­ly about the num­ber of steps that we will be tak­ing,” he said.

Pres­i­dent Ramaphosa appealed for calm as news of the virus spreads.

“South Africans should not pan­ic. We should be alert, so that if peo­ple show signs of some of the symp­toms, they imme­di­ate­ly are able to get med­ical assis­tance from all our med­ical care peo­ple — whether in the pri­vate or pub­lic sec­tor,” said the Pres­i­dent.

South Africa now joins Egypt, Nige­ria, Sene­gal, Alge­ria as the African coun­tries affect­ed by the virus.

Plans are already afoot for the repa­tri­a­tion of South Africans from Wuhan City, Hubei province – the epi­cen­tre of the Coro­n­avirus.

With the impact of the virus being felt glob­al­ly, the Pres­i­dent reit­er­at­ed that South Africans must brace them­selves.

“It will have a huge impact on a num­ber of things like trav­el. It will have a neg­a­tive impact on the econ­o­my, which as we all know is in a pre­car­i­ous [state],” said Pres­i­dent Ramaphosa.

What is being done?

The Depart­ment of Health has acti­vat­ed an emer­gency oper­a­tions cen­tre to deal with Coro­n­avirus.

There is ded­i­cat­ed staff work­ing exclu­sive­ly on Coro­n­avirus. Provinces have also acti­vat­ed out­break response teams.

Hos­pi­tals in all provinces have been equipped and are pre­pared to receive poten­tial Coro­n­avirus cas­es. These hos­pi­tals have been iden­ti­fied as cen­tres for iso­la­tion and treat­ment.

The depart­ment announced the fol­low­ing hos­pi­tals as cen­tres for iso­la­tion and treat­ment of peo­ple infect­ed with Coro­n­avirus:

  • Polok­wane Hos­pi­tal in Limpopo
  • Rob Fer­reira Hos­pi­tal in Mpumalan­ga
  • Char­lotte Max­eke Hos­pi­tal, Steve Biko Hos­pi­tal and Tem­bisa Hos­pi­tals in Gaut­eng
  • Grace Hos­pi­tal in KwaZu­lu-Natal
  • Klerks­dorp Hos­pi­tal in the North West
  • Kim­ber­ly Hos­pi­tal in the North­ern Cape
  • Pelono­mi Hos­pi­tal in the Free State
  • Liv­ing­stone Hos­pi­tal in the East­ern Cape
  • Tyger­berg Hos­pi­tal in the West­ern Cape

    Reduce your risk

The best way to pre­vent infec­tion is to avoid being exposed to this virus.

Every­day pre­ven­tive actions to help pre­vent the spread of res­pi­ra­to­ry virus­es, include:

  • Wash­ing your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 sec­onds.
  • If soap and water are not avail­able, use an alco­hol-based hand sani­tis­er.
  • Avoid touch­ing your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close con­tact with peo­ple who are sick.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cov­er your cough or sneeze with a tis­sue, then throw the tis­sue in the trash. Cough eti­quette involves main­tain­ing dis­tance, cov­er­ing coughs and sneezes with dis­pos­able tis­sues or cloth­ing and wash­ing hands.
  • Clean and dis­in­fect fre­quent­ly touched objects and sur­faces.

    Take action if you had close con­tact with some­one con­firmed to have been eval­u­at­ed for the virus.
  • Mon­i­tor your health start­ing from the day you first had close con­tact with the per­son and con­tin­ue for 14 days after.
  • Watch for signs and symp­toms such as fever, cough­ing, short­ness of breath or dif­fi­cul­ty breath­ing.
  • Oth­er ear­ly symp­toms are chills, body aches, sore throat, headache, diar­rhoea, nausea/vomiting, and run­ny nose.
  • If you devel­op fever or any of these symp­toms, imme­di­ate­ly call your health­care provider.
  • Before going to your med­ical appoint­ment, tell your health­care provider about your close con­tact with some­one who is con­firmed to have the Coro­n­avirus.
  • This will help the health­care provider’s office take steps to keep oth­er peo­ple from get­ting infect­ed as well as alert the Health Depart­ment or Nation­al Insti­tute for Com­mu­ni­ca­ble Dis­eases.


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President Cyril Ramaphosa GCIS.

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