The Department of Health, South Africa, 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.
We confirm that, to date, there is no case of Coronavirus in South Africa
We continue to intensify screening at all ports of entry with a particular focus on our major airports of entry. Evidence continues to support this approach 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 Defense Force to beef up screening where additional capacity was needed.
Evidence continues to suggest that asymptomatic individuals are highly unlikely to transmit the virus. As the numbers grow and Chinese experts are able to conduct more robust studies we continue to learn more about the natural history and epidemiology of the virus.
Evidence continues to show that the vast majority of patients affected by Coronavirus experience mild to moderate symptoms that are mostly upper respiratory in nature- that is cough, sneezing and runny nose. Generalized symptoms are mostly fever and flu-like symptoms.
The Virus is predominantly spread by infected droplets in the air. The virus has also been cultured from stool suggesting the possibility of faeco- oral spread. We, therefore, continue to reinforce our public messages of preventative behaviour: avoid contact with someone that exhibits flu-like symptoms; regular hand washing; do not sneeze or cough into your hand- rather use another barrier; hygienic food preparation and not consuming undercooked or raw meat.
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 have received a report from the South African Mission in China which gives us a situational update of the state of affairs in China. The report has been reassuring in that it outlines in detail the steps that have been taken by the Mission itself, the People’s Republic of China and the international community, including the private sector, in managing the outbreak and the adverse socio-economic sequelae thereof.
The Mission has called on travellers to register their presence in China so as to get an accurate figure of the number of South Africans in China. Registration is on a voluntary basis.
Within China the principle of limited movement remains important- as such the Chinese and School Holidays have been extended, the government has encouraged businesses to be more flexible about working hours and it has encouraged working from home as far as possible.
We have been notified of 34 students who recently graduated in Hubei Province and are currently unable to leave due to province currently being under lockdown. However, due to the extension of the holidays and China’s commitments to supporting embassies and their respective citizens during the lockdown period, we remain confident that our students will be well taken care of until such time they may be allowed to exit Hubei Province. We reiterate that, to date, no South Africans in China have been reported to have contracted the virus
There is very careful attention being paid to food security and logistics to ensure residents of Wuhan City and Hubei Province do not run out of food and basic essentials.
It is extremely gratifying to see the overwhelming international multi-sectoral support that China is receiving from organizations such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Boeing, Dell, Apple, L’Oreal and others whose donations range from face masks and other personal protection equipment to funds that will go into research to develop a vaccine. This is the expected outcome of the WHO declaration of a Public Health Emergency of International Concern and so we are very pleased to see multilateral collaboration at this level. We would also like to congratulate the Japanese government for its strength in supporting the Chinese government. There are also thousands of volunteers who have donated their time and services to the cause.
Scientists continue to work hard to find effective treatment for Coronavirus and to establish a vaccine. To date, there is no proven medicine or vaccine against Coronavirus. We are in close communication with the National Institute of Communicable Diseases who continue to advise us on developments in the treatment of Coronavirus, based on sound academic literature.
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.