Coronavirus. Picture: IANS
Coronavirus. Picture: IANS

Covid-19: Health authorities warn about spreading unconfirmed information

By Bongani Hans Time of article published Mar 18, 2020

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Johannesburg - Health authorities have warned against spreading unverified information that a drug for curing Covid-19 has been found. 

The warning followed a statement from the National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu), which called for the South African government to procure a vaccine from Cuba. 

Nehawu had on Wednesday issued a statement that a drug called Interferon had been manufactured in Cuba, and was being applied in some parts of the world, including China where the outbreak of the virus was first reported. 

However, the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA) has rejected this, and said such a drug has not been approved by any international health bodies. 

SAHPRA spokesperson Yuven Gounden said the only reliable information was from the World Health Organisation that there was still no cure for the killer virus, which is also known as Covid-19. 

“I am not sure where Nehawu is getting the information from, as the World Health Organisation (WHO) thinks differently. 

“We have not heard of anything like this as we follow the WHO guidelines, and if something like that was developed, we would be the first to go and put it out there,” said Gounden.    

Gaunden said since the outbreak of the virus many instances of fake news had emerged. 

“So we advise people to look at the credible websites, one of them is the WHO and the National Institute of Communicable Diseases that is based here in South Africa. 

“Look at the Department of Health website. Those three websites will give you credible information because Interferon is not something we have heard of,” said Gounden. 

In a statement, Nehawu general secretary Zola Saphetha said BioCubaFarma, part of the Cuban pharmaceutical industry, had produced the drug that was effective in fighting the virus. 

“BioCubaFarma ... has been supplying the drug to many countries that have realised the effectiveness of the drug hence we appeal to our government to procure it from the Cuban government,” said Saphetha in a statement released on Wednesday.

Health spokesperson Popo Maja also rejected Nehawu’s request for the Cuban drug. 

“We only use drugs that have been registered by South African health authorities, and if it is not registered in South Africa, we will not use it,” said Maja. 

He said the health department did not have authority to procure any drugs from outside the country. 

“Individuals within the department, like myself,  have heard about it (Interferon), but there has not been any formal communiqué. 

“It is possible that we have been notified (about the drug), but our medical control council would have to look at it,” said Maja.      

Saphetha insisted that Cuba had something to offer the world, and called on the South African government to consider the drug as both countries have a healthy relationship. 

“Our statement did not say that we must undermine regulations. We have said that the government of South Africa must do everything including procuring this kind of medication from Cuba. 

“It means that they must follow the necessary laws that regulate the exchange of drugs and medicine,” said Saphetha.

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