The NICD said on Tuesday 11 February that a total of 61 individuals were tested for the coronavirus (2019-nCoV) in South Africa and all of them have tested negative.
The NICD took to Twitter on Tuesday to put South Africa at ease: “There is no confirmed case of the 2019-nCoV in South Africa.”
NICD continues with coronavirus surveillance
In light of the ongoing novel coronavirus outbreak which originated in Wuhan City, Hubei Province of China and has now spread to other major Chinese cities and other countries, the NICD — a division of the National Health Laboratory Service — continues with its surveillance activities and testing of individuals with symptoms of the coronavirus.
The first death was reported on 11 January. The number of deaths has increased a thousandfold in just one month, reaching 1 016, though the mortality rate remains relatively low at 2.4%.
Chinese authorities have locked down millions of people in a number of cities while several governments have banned arrivals from China, and major airlines have suspended flights to keep the disease away from their shores.
But the case of a British man who passed on the virus to at least 11 other people — without having been in China — has raised fears of a new phase of contagion abroad.
The adult British citizen, who has not been named publicly, caught the virus while attending a conference in Singapore and then passed it on to several compatriots while on holiday in the French Alps, before finally being diagnosed back in Britain.
South African ports of entry remain on high alert for coronavirus
South Africa remains a destination of choice for many travellers, with a lot of traffic managed from Cape Town International Airport and OR Tambo International Airport.
According to the NICD, all ports of entry including high traffic airports, remain on high alert for a possible case.
“It is possible that we will detect a case and as such, we would like to assure the public that should South Africa identify a positive case, the country is well prepared to deal with it. The NICD, working together with the National Department of Health, continues to enhance systems to rapidly identify and detect any imported cases that may reach our borders,” said the NICD.
Over 100 health professionals trained for coronavirus response
The institute explained that there are 130 health professionals being trained in the North West Tshepong Hospital to build capacity and response. These professionals include medical doctors, environmental health practitioners, emergency personnel, nurses and others.
The training includes guidance on what samples to collect to confirm the diagnosis, as well as how to best manage the case clinically and to prevent spread to others while the diagnosis is being made.
“While the outbreak is ongoing, we encourage the public to heed to the measures to prevent the spread of respiratory infections. We recommend good practice of hand hygiene and cough etiquette.”
In addition, people should adhere to the following:
- Avoid close contact with people suffering from acute respiratory infections;
- Practise frequent handwashing, especially after direct contact with ill people or their environment;
- Avoid visiting markets where live animals are sold;
- Travellers with symptoms of acute respiratory infection should practise cough etiquette (maintain distance, cover coughs and sneezes with disposable tissues or clothing and wash hands); and
- Health practitioners should provide travellers with information to reduce the general risk of acute respiratory infections, via travel health clinics, travel agencies, conveyance operators and at points of entry. Travellers should self-report if they feel ill.
Infection rate on Japanese cruise ship climbs
According to SABC News, another 39 people have tested positive for the coronavirus on the quarantined Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan, as well as one quarantine officer, bringing the total to 175, the health ministry said on Wednesday 12 February.
The Diamond Princess was placed in quarantine for two weeks upon arriving in Yokohama, south of Tokyo on 3 February, after a man who disembarked in Hong Kong was diagnosed with the virus. The epidemic originated in mainland China, where more than 1 100 people have now died from the virus.
About 3 700 people are aboard the ship, which usually has a crew of 1 100 and a passenger capacity of 2 670. The ministry said tests are being conducted for others who are deemed to need them and it will announce the results later.
Kyodo news agency, citing the health ministry, said that of the 39 cases, 10 were crew and 29 were passengers.