NATIONAL NEWS - As the death toll arising from the coronavirus continues to wreak havoc in China, with a least 56 people dead and several cases of those infected standing at 1,975, the department of international relations and cooperation (Dirco) yesterday said the pandemic has created panic in the country.
“We are on a drive to inform people about the presence of the virus in China, but not telling them to avoid travelling to that country,” said Dirco spokesperson Lunga Ngqengelele.
While China is ramping up measures to curb the spread of the virus that has affected almost 20 cities, Dirco and the health department said no South African had so far been infected.
The virus, traced to the city of Wuhan, has jolted China to introduce travel restrictions, with health authorities around the world taking action to prevent the spread of the pandemic, with coronavirus cases having been reported in Europe, North America and several Asian countries.
Health spokesperson Popo Maja assured South Africans of measures the government has put in place to detect, manage and contain any cases of the virus should it reach the country.
“So far, there are no suspected cases reported. Port health professionals routinely conduct temperature screening for all international travellers,” he said.
“Fortunately, OR Tambo and Cape Town international airports are the only ports of entry with direct flights from Asia.”
Maja said South Africa had developed and distributed clinical guidelines and case definitions for health professionals, such as:
- Avoid close contact with people suffering from acute respiratory infections.
- Practise frequent hand-washing after contact with ill people.
- Avoid visiting markets where live animals are sold.
“Health practitioners should provide travellers with information to reduce the general risk of acute respiratory infections, via travel health clinics, travel agencies, conveyance operators and at points of entry. Travellers should also be encouraged to self-report if they feel ill,” said Maja.
The Chinese embassy in Pretoria has urged South Africans to avoid travelling to China’s central city of Wuhan.
“Friends from South Africa are requested not to go to Wuhan for the time being, and South African friends in Wuhan now should not leave the city or return to SA at this moment,” said the embassy.
With many South Africans studying in China, the embassy said locals were “deeply worried about the epidemic”.
“We hope that friends from South Africa and other countries could believe in the Chinese government to make every effort to ensure the health and safety of every foreigner in China,” added the embassy.