PICTURE: Nqobile Mbonambi/African News Agency(ANA)
PICTURE: Nqobile Mbonambi/African News Agency(ANA)

Zweli Mkhize says SA on 'High Alert' as Coronavirus spreads

By Aaliyah Fortuin Time of article published Jan 31, 2020

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As of December 2019, an outbreak of Coronavirus has caused fear in China, which resulted in more than 9000 infections and a death toll of 200. The deadly epidemic in the central city of Wuhan has forced a government lockdown in almost 20 cities, which has left an estimate of 52 million people isolated in their homes.

According to reports and health authorities, the deadly virus has made its way to Africa. Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria and Uganda and South Africa among other countries have started implementing preparation at airports and other points of entry, closely monitoring the screening process for those returning from China.

Health Minister Zweli Mkhize and the National Institute for Communicable diseases (NCID) has addressed the media, providing a report on South Africa’s plans and measures that will be put in place to combat the pandemic. The minister of health assured the people of South Africa that the department will be alert on the virus’s movements. “We wish to assure South Africans that the country is ready for active surveillance, detention, and tracing of a threat,” says Mkhize.

However, Mkhize has confirmed that the department is aware of the Coronavirus case under investigation in Zambia. It has also been reported that two students from China have been placed under quarantine in the Ivory Coast and Kenya, as well as four people in Ethiopia in the Capital of Addis Ababa.

Both passengers from Kenya and Ivory Coast showed early signs of pneumonia but also flu-like symptoms like coughing, sneezing, and respiratory problems, raising flags for the Coronavirus. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the Coronavirus is a family of viruses that results in symptoms of the common cold to more severe diseases such as middle east respiratory syndrome (Mers) and severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars).

Health authorities in China are still trying to determine the origin of the virus, which allegedly comes from a seafood market in Wuhan. Symptoms of the virus include fever, coughing, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. In severe cases, it can lead to pneumonia, Sars, kidney failure and death. The virus, however, can go undetected for 2 weeks before showing any symptoms.

While Mkhize has announced that South Africa will be on “high alert”, Mkhzie confirms that at least 35 South Africans are still in Wuhan China. The NCID has also issued public clinical guidance as well as case definitions for health workers that will assist in identifying and detecting potential cases.

Western Cape Government has also stated that the Emergency Operations Center is on high alert as O.R Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg is the busiest point of entry on the continent.

With no restrictions on travelling to China being issued for South Africans, Mkhize assures that the NCID will stay in constant communication with authorities in China to ensure the safety of South African citizens.

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