File picture: Reuters
Cape Town – Private hospital group Mediclinic Southern Africa has debunked a tweet claiming a man died of the coronavirus at one of its hospitals.

A tweet sent by a @MarkSmit222 alleged a person died at the Louis Leipoldt Mediclinic in Bellville.

It said: “My good friend’s colleague, Steve Gouws, working at international Chinese company, ZTE, Cape Town, South Africa died at 1pm today after being exposed to another colleague who returned from China last week. Hospital refused to say coronavirus. They claim it’s swine flu (sic)”.

After being pressed for answers by followers, he tweeted again.

“My tweet was not to create fear but create awareness. Proper screening precautions are not done at airports as is done in other countries. Also, people have the right to know where this person died. It was Mediclinic Louis Leipoldt in Bellville, Cape Town,” he tweeted.

Mediclinic Southern Africa group said it had no confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus.

“We would like to provide the reassurance that, in strict accordance with the protocols, Mediclinic Southern Africa has implemented the necessary measures to manage any patients presenting with symptoms and to prevent the potential transmission of the virus in our facilities,” the hospital group said.

It urged South Africans to take necessary precautions when travelling to affected areas.

“We also encourage anyone experiencing signs and symptoms of flu or who think that they may have been exposed to the virus to contact their health-care provider.”

Meanwhile, the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) confirmed that the 61 patients it had tested in South Africa for the coronavirus had tested negative.

The institute said it would continue its surveillance as the virus that started in Wuhan, China, spread across the globe.

“A division of the National Health Laboratory Service will continue its surveillance activities and testing of individuals with symptoms of 2019-nCoV (coronavirus). We can confirm that as of February 11, 61 individuals have been tested for the virus, and all tests came back negative. Therefore, there are no confirmed case of 2019-nCoV in South Africa,” the NICD said.

It added that all ports of entry were on high alert for possible cases.

“It is possible that we will detect a case and, as such, we would like to assure the public that should South Africa identify a positive case, the country is well prepared to deal with it.

“The NICD, working together with the national Department of Health, continues to enhance systems to rapidly identify and detect any imported cases that may reach our borders. We continue to provide preparedness training, guidance and support to health-care professionals in South Africa and the continent.”

Provincial Health Department spokesperson Mark van der Heever said speculation that the virus could be in the country was wrong.

“Surveillance systems are in place to rapidly identify and detect any cases in South Africa. This includes the screening and monitoring of anyone with a relevant travel history and close contacts with the area of the outbreak,” he said.

He said warning signs of having the virus included flu-like symptoms, mild to severe respiratory illness with a sudden onset of fever, cough, difficulty breathing, and a sore throat.

“If a person presents to a health facility and matches the criteria, it is standard procedure to isolate them in a suitable room/unit for assessment, and to apply infection prevention and control measures.”

Van der Heever added that the results would be sent to the NICD, as they were the only laboratory that could confirm the virus

“A patient is not deemed to have 2019-nCoV until the results from the test at the NICD returns positive. Once confirmed, the person would be admitted to a designated hospital for further management.”

Cape Times