Western Cape government ready to fight coronavirus

By Alan Winde Time of article published Mar 7, 2020

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Global news is being dominated by the spread of the new coronavirus Covid-19.

The first confirmed case in South Africa has caused anxiety for many people at home and abroad.

My message to the people of the Western Cape is that there is no need to panic. At the time of writing there had been no confirmed cases in the Western Cape and we are taking decisive steps to make sure we are fully prepared for any scenario.

This week Health MEC Nomafrench Mbombo hosted a media briefing at which our excellent Department of Health set out its readiness for any outbreak of coronavirus.

We have top-notch surveillance systems and world-class experts that have been tested before. These teams are working closely with all our partners, including the National Department of Health, the City, the private sector, port health and the Airports Company SA to make sure that we are prepared.

We are also in daily contact with the National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD).

A plan of action is in place that kicked in as soon as the first South African case was registered.

Should anyone test positive for the virus in the Western Cape, our plan aims to ensure that the virus is contained and the patient is cared for.

Above all, the role of our health-care system is to make sure our residents get the care they deserve so that they can get better.

In order to address this challenge, we have to make sure that only credible information on this virus is spread.

I am worried about the fake news being circulated, with some people claiming cases that do not exist.

These messages are not only inaccurate, they are also dangerous, because they spread fear and panic when there is no need for it.

As we have seen, the NICD communicated as soon as the virus was confirmed in South Africa.

The Western Cape will also communicate if and when the virus reaches our province.

These are trusted sources of information and I appeal to residents to use official channels of communication, rather than to rely on nameless WhatsApp messages and videos being circulated by people with no medical background.

To help residents with trusted sources of information, we have launched a dedicated webpage: www.westerncape.gov.za/coronavirus.

Please make use of the information on this site if you have concerns.

We recognise how important our role is in times of uncertainty and we take that role and the health of the people of this province seriously. In the storm of news and information, it is easy to feel helpless and to not know what to do, but there are a few things residents can do to protect themselves and to ensure that the impact of this virus is minimised.

Wash your hands regularly with soap and water and avoid touching your face.

When you cough, practice good etiquette and cover your nose and mouth with the fold of your arm or a tissue you can throw away.

These are things we should all be doing anyway, but it helps to consider where our personal behaviour can be improved. These are also especially important if you are in contact with the sick and elderly.

If you have travelled, or have been in contact with someone who has travelled and feel like you are displaying symptoms, visit a doctor or medical facility and be honest with the healthcare worker about where you have been and your symptoms.

Several countries are cancelling events due to the risk of large numbers of people being together. This has not yet been necessary in the province, but we are monitoring the situation.

This weekend the Cape Town Cycle Tour will go ahead and I will be there.

Events and the tourism industry are important to the economy of our region. So long as events are being done in a safe and responsible manner, we will continue to support them.

I call on people to practise tolerance. The Western Cape is home to people from all over the world. There is no way of knowing if a person has coronavirus based on where they are from or what they look like.

The outbreak is a constantly evolving situation. We recognise that while we have not registered any cases yet, this could change. It is an eventuality that we have planned and prepared for. The best response right now is to remain informed and to adopt good hygiene practices.

The following resources are available to residents to ensure that they stay up to date with the latest information:

Provincial Facebook page: facebook.com/WCGHealth

The provincial landing page for coronavirus information: https://westerncape.gov.za/department-of-health/coronavirus

The public hotline: 0800 029 999

WHO contact page:  https://www.who.int/

Winde is the premier of the Western Cape

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