Coronavirus: No need to evacuate South Africans living in Wuhan - Mkhize
29 January 2020
There is no evidence to necessitate the evacuation of South African citizens living in Wuhan, China, amid the coronavirus outbreak, according to the Department of Health.
The department said the Chinese government called for calm and reassured South Africa that there was no need for foreign nationals living in that country to be evacuated.
On Monday, Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize, the World Health Organization and the National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD) briefed the media on the country's preparedness to detect, manage and contain any threat of the virus entering the country.
Mkhize said people entering or leaving the country were subjected to a 14-day quarantine to ensure that they did not develop any symptoms.
Mkhize assured South Africans who travelled to China before the announcement of the outbreak that there was no need to panic if 14 days passed and they did not have any symptoms of the virus.
"If it's more than 14 days, we expect they should have showed the symptoms already. I think just by time estimation we can exclude the risk from that group... They would have already showed up somewhere if they were affected, by the time they landed at our airports," the minister said.
He added that all foreign nationals living in China would be subjected to the same treatment as Chinese citizens and would be given medical assistance if necessary.
Embassies have been enabled to offer support to those who are locked in and outside of Wuhan.
"Dirco (The Department of International Relations and Cooperation) has been closely collaborating with all relevant stakeholders to respond appropriately to the needs of our citizens who either may want to go to, exit or remain in China," Mkhize said.
Mkhize said Chinese authorities indicated that they were confident about the manner in which the outbreak was being monitored.
The NICD is working closely with authorities in Zambia, following reports of a case in that country.
Closer to home, three hospitals in Gauteng - Charlotte Maxeke, Steve Biko and Tembisa hospitals – have been equipped to treat people locally if necessary.
Mkhize said staff at different levels at the hospital received the necessary information about the disease.
Provinces with mainly international airports will also have hospitals which will act as centres.
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.
Amid reports of cases in Ethiopia, the NICD said it was already expecting samples to arrive soon.
In a statement, the chairperson of Parliament's the Portfolio Committee on Health, Dr SibongiseniDhlomo welcomed, the reassurances.
"The reassurances by the minister are welcomed and will allay any fears. It will give South Africans confidence in the department and the National Institute for Communicable Diseases' ability to detect and effectively manage any case, if necessary," Dhlomo said.
"I have full confidence in the ability and expertise within the Department of Health and the National Institute for Communicable Diseases to detect, manage and contain the virus if it reaches our shores. The processes laid out by the minster are clear and must be followed religiously," Dhlomo said.