Department of Health slams coronavirus voice note hoax
The national Health Department was commenting after a hoax message sent on WhatsApp claimed that Lancet Laboratories had detected a positive case of coronavirus in the country.
Department of Health acting director general Anban Pillay said no cases of the virus had been detected in the country and that the note was a hoax.
Wesley van Wyk, online brand and communications supervisor for Lancet Laboratories, said all tests conducted in the country had been negative.
Pillay said that port health officials were boarding every aircraft that arrived at the country’s international airports to check passengers’ temperatures before they were allowed to disembark.
Pillay said passengers were required to fill out a questionnaire on board which included questions such as where they had travelled from and where they were heading to in South Africa.
He said passengers travelling from high risk areas faced further assessments and were interviewed by port health officials, while all passengers were again subjected to a temperature test before passing through passport control to collect their luggage.
“We have also made it a rule that all airlines and crew must report anybody that has any symptoms and the pilot must declare whether anyone got sick on board,” Pillay said.
He said provincial health departments would further follow up with people arriving from high risk areas, although the disease was not notifiable as it has not been declared a pandemic.
He said the South African embassy in China was in contact with all citizens in that country planning to be repatriated.
They are currently in quarantine at home.
He said the military was yet to make a decision regarding whether a military or other aircraft would transport citizens, as this would depend on the final number of people being transported.
Department of International Relations and Co-operation spokesperson Lunga Ngqengelele said that the number of South Africans being repatriated had risen by 20 to 171 on Monday and that the government’s plan to bring them home was on track.
Pillay said a team of health-care professionals, including doctors and paramedics, would travel with military personnel to repatriate the citizens.
Pillay said the repatriation was conditional upon citizens signing a consent form to agree that they would remain under quarantine under the control of the government and that they would comply with its rules.
“They will not be interacting with any South Africans when they land and will be isolated,” Pillay said.
“The military will declare it a military zone and will have full control over the area, deciding who can come in and who can go,” Pillay said.
He said citizens would be tested daily during the 21-day quarantine period to check for symptoms, although it was not expected that they would be infected with the disease.
“It’s important for South Africans to know these people are disease-free as we expect them to be and their quarantine is a measure just to make sure that even if there is minimal possibility, we are taking precautions,” Pillay said.
National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) spokesperson Sinenhlanhla Jimoh said 160 people were tested for Sars-CoV-2, the virus that causes coronavirus, and all results were negative.
She said the NICD had noted with concern the stigmatisation of people from affected areas, which now includes countries in Asia, Europe and the Middle East.
“Stigma has the potential to drive people to hide their illness to avoid discrimination and to prevent people from seeking health care.”