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Coronavirus fear turns to profit for some

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Travellers visiting the country are being subjected to health screenings before they disembark on flights or are allowed to enter the country

WHILE the first case of coronavirus in South Africa was confirmed yesterday, entrepreneurial locals have already been selling masks and “survival kits” online at higher than average prices.

According to Gumtree’s marketing manager Estelle Nagel, the surgical masks sell for between

R6 and R13 each on the site, but it is expected that prices will go up even further. “In other markets, these masks are being sold at 600% mark-ups,” she said.

Nagel stated that the site was also removing adverts purporting to 100% prevent coronavirus infections and similar claims.

“Some sellers are selling welding masks and construction-grade face masks (used for working in dusty conditions during demolition), but these are not for medical use.”

Gumtree’s parent company eBay has already removed 20 000 adverts related to the virus and is taking steps to prevent price inflation.

The American surgeon general has also urged the public to stop buying bulk masks as they are generally ineffective and might trigger a serious shortage of these masks in hospitals and clinics where they are used regularly.

He also advised worried members of the public to wash their hands and avoid touching their faces as a best defence against contracting the virus.

The South African government meanwhile announced yesterday that an aircraft with the capacity to bring back South Africans from the coronavirus-hit Wuhan City in China had been secured.

“An interdisciplinary team of relevant departments including Health, Home Affairs, Social Development and the Defence Force will form part of the repatriation team from China to South Africa,” the National Joint Operational and Intelligence Structure (NatJOINTS) said in a statement on Wednesday.

The team will be working with the Chinese authorities to screen the group of South Africans before they depart the epicentre of Wuhan.

“With the support of the South African Embassy in China, a ground transport plan is being put in place to ensure that all citizens who are to be evacuated are safely brought to a central collection point from where they will be transported home,” the NatJOINTS said.

A total of 184 South Africans have indicated their desire to be repatriated back home.

Most of these South Africans are students, teachers and other professionals currently working in Wuhan. At this stage only seven South Africans in Wuhan have opted to remain in Wuhan City.

“The Department of Health is continuing to monitor the situation closely and has put plans in place to deal with any possible detection of the virus. Port Health has also doubled its efforts to screen all the travellers at all Ports of Entry,” the NatJOINTS said.

Travellers visiting the country are being subjected to health screenings before they disembark on flights or are allowed to enter the country.

The two South Africans working on the cruise ship Diamond Princess who initially tested positive for Covid-19 have now tested negative and will shortly be making their way home.

“Negotiations with a number of service providers to serve as a quarantine area have not yet been concluded. At this stage the technical team is working hard to finalise this critical area of work and there is no specific venue that has been confirmed,” the NatJOINTS said.