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‘Health facilities on high alert to deal with coronavirus’


“South Africa has developed and distributed clinical guidelines and case definitions to doctors and nurses in both the public and private sectors.”

ALL THE country’s health facilities are on high alert to deal with any eventuality of the coronavirus.

“There are no reports or suspected cases of the virus and Cabinet reiterates the message of the Minister of Health, Dr Zweli Mkhize, that all measures have been put in place to prevent any infections in the country,” Cabinet said in a statement yesterday.

The National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) has also stated that there are no reports or suspected cases of the virus in South Africa.

“In addition, the country’s ports of entry are on high alert while health professionals are conducting temperature screening for all international travellers,” the statement added.

“In addition, South Africa has developed and distributed clinical guidelines and case definitions to doctors and nurses in both the public and private sectors.”

Meanwhile, provinces have activated outbreak response teams and are on high alert to detect and manage inadvertent cases that may arise in the country.

A number of hospitals have also been identified across the country as centres to quarantine and treat anyone who may be infected with the coronavirus.

Through the Embassy of China in Pretoria, Cabinet said the government was closely monitoring the situation.

“We are confident that we are prepared to evacuate students and other South African citizens currently in Wuhan, China, should the need arise,” Cabinet stated further.

The DA has meanwhile expressed concern regarding the approximately 85 South Africans who are currently stuck in China.

The party’s Darren Bergman said yesterday that it had been in contact with officials from the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (Dirco) to inform them of the group who have indicated that they want to be evacuated and returned to South Africa.

“Whilst the DA was heartened to learn that South African students and teachers had been evacuated from China it was disappointing to hear that these 85 South African citizens were being completely ignored by the South African government,” Bergman stated.

He said a letter had been written to Minister Naledi Pandor to request that she make an urgent Executive Statement to the National Assembly as to why only half the South African community in China were assisted out of the country and the other half has been left to their own devices.

“Rule 133 of the National Assembly makes provision for a minister to request the Speaker for an opportunity to make a statement on pertinent matters which Parliament should be informed of. The DA is of the view that the outbreak of coronavirus and its impact on the well-being of South African citizens warrants such a statement.

“The DA has been fielding frantic calls from concerned parents and family and often has to offer the support that the government should be offering. When something major like an evacuation takes place, it is vital that the reasons why that evacuation was allowed and the other was not is conveyed so that it allays any fears that politics was at play.”

Bergman added that the South African Embassy in China’s response to the outbreak had been far from perfect with allegations of aggression, lack of communication and now a further closure until further notice without any South African contact number being conveyed.

“The DA implores officials to be more supportive of those South Africans who are still left behind.”

The DA has also called on Dirco and the Department of Health to implement proper procedures for those entering South Africa from China such as placing people returning to the country under quarantine for 14 days at the Waterkloof Airforce Base, adding that temperature control was simply not an accurate enough reflection of the presence of the virus.

“Whilst South Africa has not had any confirmed cases of the coronavirus, the threat is very much present and government should do all in its power to prevent any South African from contracting this deadly virus.”

The NICD stated meanwhile that it was continuing to strengthen surveillance activities through improving the training of health professionals consisting of medical doctors, environmental health practitioners, emergency personnel and nurses.

“Additional training has also been provided to public and private health care practitioners focusing on surveillance and case definitions including who should be tested, and contact tracing. Moreover, the training will cover infection, prevention and control at all hospitals, including patient flow and management, and transfer of patients to designated hospitals.”

The NICD stated that case identification played an important role in detecting COVID-19 through symptoms identification.

“We recommend that persons returning to South Africa from an area with community transmission of SARS-CoV-2019, presently mainland China, self-isolate at the first onset of symptoms such as acute respiratory illness with fever, cough, shortness of breath, and breathing difficulties. We also recommend that persons seek medical attention from their health care provider – they should disclose their travel history, seek assistance regarding isolation while waiting to be seen by a clinician to minimise possible infection to others. Additionally, persons should implement measures to prevent transmission, including meticulous hand hygiene, respiratory hygiene (covering of mouth with tissues or facial mask).”

The Northern Cape Department of Health confirmed that the Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe Hospital in Kimberley had been identified as a centre to quarantine and treat anyone infected with the virus.

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