South Africa is on high alert for the movement of coronavirus, as neighbouring Botswana confirms it’s isolated one person because of suspicions they might have contracted the deadly virus. The confirmation of suspected coronavirus in Botswana, which shares the borders with South Africa’s North West and Limpopo provinces, has put South Africans on tenterhooks, but authorities say all is under control.
Health Minister, Zweli Mkhize and the National Institute for Communicable diseases (NCID), on Friday gave another status report, just two days after the first one. In the latest update, Mkhize assured citizens that government is ready to detect the virus should it enter the country. “We wish to assure South Africans that the country is ready for active surveillance, detention, and tracing of a threat,” the minister said.
"We have remained vigilant on the development regarding the movement and behaviour of the viral infection across the world and we continue to engage with the international academic fraternity to better understand how this virus behaves," said Mkhize. South Africa activated an emergency operations centre on Thursday night and each province has got a dedicated hospital to treat coronavirus patients should the country confirm any cases.
These hospitals are:
1. North West: Klerksdorp Hospital
2. Gauteng: Charlotte Maxeke, Steve Biko and Tembisa hospitals
3. Northern Cape: Kimberley Hospital
4. Free State: Pelonomi Hospital
5. Limpopo: Polokwane Hospital
6. Mpumalanga: Rob Ferreira Hospital
7. KwaZulu-Natal: Greys Hospital
8. Western Cape: Tygerberg Hospital
9. Eastern Cape: Livingston Hospital
"This means we have dedicated staff working exclusively on the coronavirus, monitoring and responding to all reports that they will proactively detect and follow up," said the health minister. Mkhize also said South Africa has already started developing a vaccine for coronavirus.
The points of entry that screen travellers have been increased to 36 from the initial 12 and special measures have been put in place at OR Tambo International Airport, the country's busiest airport. Mkhize confirmed that at least 35 South Africans are still in Wuhan City in China, the origin of the deadly virus, but there is no confirmed case of the coronavirus in South Africa.
The health minister confirmed to the media that his department is aware that Zambia is investigating a suspected case of coronavirus. There have been reports of other African countries suspecting they could be facing coronavirus cases: four in Ethiopia and one each in Ivory Coast and Kenya.
The World Health Organization (WHO) describes the Coronavirus as a family of viruses that result in symptoms of the common cold to more severe diseases such as middle east respiratory syndrome (Mers) and severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars). On Thursday the WHO declared the coronavirus outbreak a global public health emergency of international concern. The WHO director-general, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said the declaration was not a lack of faith in China, which is still battling to find the origin of the virus. "Let me be clear: This declaration is not a vote of no confidence in China. On the contrary, the WHO continues to have confidence in China's capacity to control the outbreak," said Ghebreyesus.
"The main reason for this declaration is not because of what is happening in China, but because of what is happening in other countries," he said. At the time of publishing more close to 10 000 people had been infected across the world, while the death toll had increased to over 200.