South Africa is well prepared to deal with coronavirus, should the disease reach the country.
Minister of Health, Dr Zweli Mkhize and his Home Affairs counterpart, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi - supported by the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) and the World Health Organization briefed the media on Wednesday morning, amid concern that the number of infections is steadily going up.
Mkhize assured the nation through the widely televised media briefing that the country is prepared to detect, manage and contain any threat should the virus enter the country.
“South Africa has responded rapidly to ensure that the coronavirus does not become a national threat. As a department, it is standard procedure to monitor emergent outbreaks and we are currently tracking a plethora of pathogens, including those viruses of pandemic potential,” said Mkhize.
In addition, South Africa has identified and equipped three public hospitals: Charlotte Maxeke, Steve Biko and Tembisa hospitals to treat coronavirus patients should there be any. There are also some provinces that will have hospitals that would act as special centres for coronavirus.
While the ministers confirmed that South Africa is on high alert to deal with any possible outbreak, Mkhize said there was no need to panic.
The NICD's Professor Cheryl Cohen said the WHO asked the institute to act as a reference laboratory for Africa and it would be assisting with tests and help other laboratories in other countries.
No cases have been reported in South Africa, but tests are being run on patients in other African countries.
Home Affairs’ Motsoaledi said health screen checks are currently being conducted at 12 ports of entry to the country and that these would be increased within the next two days.
The coronavirus outbreak started in China and has now been confirmed in several other countries.
Mkhize, however, said there was no need to evacuate South African citizens that are currently living in the Wuhan city of China because the WHO has not advised so yet.
The virus is suspected to have started off as a zoonotic - meaning it originated from animals - but Mkhize said current evidence says the recent outbreak has been spreading from human to human.