KZN health MEC annoyed by 'false and irresponsible' reporting on coronavirus

Simelane-Zulu says members of the public will be duly notified of any new developments by DoH

KZN health MEC annoyed by 'false and irresponsible' reporting on coronavirus

7 February 2020

KwaZulu-Natal Health MEC Nomagugu Simelane-Zulu has lashed out at certain media houses for their "false, irresponsible, and sensationalist" reporting on two suspected cases of the coronavirus in that province, saying it created an "untruthful and misleading impression" about coronavirus.

"In responding to a media enquiry earlier [on Thursday] afternoon, the department issued a clear an unambiguous response that it is aware of two cases that exhibited symptoms that were not dissimilar to those of coronavirus, but pointed out that these were subsequently found to be false alarms after laboratory tests were conducted," Simelane-Zulu said in a statement.

"In its response, the department pointed out that at the moment, there is no  laboratory confirmation of the virus for the above-mentioned cases."

Simelane-Zulu said, as a precaution, one case is being handled by the department at one of its facilities, while the other is currently being managed by a private healthcare facility in Durban.

"The department can confidently state that there are no confirmed cases because, even in the cases in question, neither of the patients presented with symptoms after 14 days of the incubation period for coronavirus."

'Remain calm'

The MEC said the department was monitoring the treatment and management of these patients closely, in accordance with the "extensive stringent measures and protocols that have been put in place as announced by the national Department of Health".

"Members of the public will be duly notified of any new developments by the national Department of Health.

"Until then, the department would like to appeal to the media and community of KwaZulu-Natal at large to remain calm and avoid being misled by false and sensational statements which are peddled on social media platforms," Simelane-Zulu said.

On Thursday, News24 reported that two patients in KwaZulu-Natal suspected of being infected with the coronavirus had been cleared, according to the National Institute for Communicable Diseases.

The official death toll from the coronavirus outbreak rose to 636 on Friday, with the Chinese government saying total infections had climbed past 30 000, AFP reported.

On Wednesday, a patient who was suspected to have contracted the coronavirus, and who had been held in isolation at the Ellisras Hospital in Lephalale, was also cleared.

According to Limpopo health department spokesperson Neil Shikwambana, the patient was taken into isolation as a precautionary measure after he developed a high fever and other symptoms consistent with a respiratory disease.

"The patient works at the Grobler's Bridge border crossing between South Africa and Botswana and was considered as a high-risk case because it is a point of entry," Shikwambana told News24.