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Coronavirus and South Africa: Government announces plan to halt the spread

Health Minister Zweli Mkhize and the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NCID) reveal plans to combat the virus at South Africa's points of entry.

Could the deadly Coronavirus find its way to South Africa? Health Minister, Zweli Mkhize, has unveiled a plan to keep the infectious disease at bay.

The Coronavirus outbreak has spread fear and panic throughout the globe. Fatal infections, which first manifested in the city of Wuhan in China, escalated in mid-January 2020. Since then, more than 6 000 cases have been confirmed with the death toll soaring to 132 on Wednesday 29 January.

Coronavirus puts 56 million people under lockdown

Wuhan and surrounding cities, which house approximately 56 million people, have been placed on lockdown, with a far-reaching travel ban imposed to prevent the spread of the virus during China’s busy Lunar New Year festival. Several countries have followed suit and implemented emergency evacuation policies, along with stringent quarantine measures at points of entry.

Mkhize, who addressed the media on Wednesday morning, provided a report on South Africa’s readiness to combat the pandemic. The minister of health assured South Africans that the department was keeping a close watch on the virus’ movements, saying:

“We wish to assure South Africans that the country is ready for active surveillance, detention, tracing of a threat.”

Coronavirus and South Africa: Intensified screenings at ports of entry

Mkhize also hit back at ‘fake news’ which alleged that the Coronavirus was rapidly mutating, noting that no cases had been reported in South Africa or neighboring countries.

Mkhize did, however, confirm that the department was aware of a Coronavirus case under investigation in Zambia. It’s also been reported that two students traveling back from China have been placed under quarantine in the Ivory Coast and Kenya.

The health minister revealed that, in addition to a previously released travel advisory, South Africa’s airports and other points of entry would be closely monitored, with the screening process for those returning from China due to being intensified.

Mkhize added that collaborative efforts with the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NCID) would be heightened at points of entry, noting:

“Temperature screening has been intensified at points of entry. If a traveller is found to have high temperature they are assessed by a nurse… then the NICD is contacted.”

35 South Africans still stuck in Wuhan

The health minister, who announced that the country would be on “high alert”, confirmed that at least 35 South Africans were still in Wuhan, China.

Mkhize noted that the department was in constant communication with authorities in China to ensure the safety of South African citizens at the epicentre of the outbreak.

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