“We wish to assure everyone that the department is adequately prepared for any local case of the novel coronavirus,” he said.

While there has yet to be a case of the novel coronavirus (2019-NCOV) reported in South Africa, a Pretoria hospital is among three that have been specially equipped to treat patients.

Minister of Health Dr Zweli Mkhize announced at a press conference on Wednesday that three hospitals had been prepared to receive coronavirus patients.

These hospitals were Charlotte Maxeke Hospital, Steve Biko Hospital and Tembisa Hospital.

“We wish to assure everyone that the department is adequately prepared for any local case of the novel coronavirus,” he said.

“This includes active surveillance, early detection, isolation and case management, contact tracing and prevention of onward spread of infection.”

Mkhize reiterated there had been no case reported in South Africa to date.

He said the department was aware of a suspected case in Zambia which was being closely monitored by the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD).

“More evidence is needed to determine if asymptomatic patients are contagious.

“However, preliminary evidence suggests that, like SARS and Ebola, all the contacts reported were patients who had symptoms.”

Mkhize said patients presented with flu-like symptoms and cough.

“The disease can be complicated by shortness of breath, multi-organ failure and death. Most fatalities reported were elderly people or persons with pre-existing co-morbidities, suggesting that these are the population groups that are most at risk.

“In response to the virus, a multi-sectoral National Outbreak Response Team (MNORT) was reconvened on 24 January 2020.”

The team comprised of officials from the World Health Organisation (WHO), national departments such as Home Affairs, Agriculture, International Relations, Tourism, and representatives from the private health sector.

The following steps had already been taken:

– an alert was developed and disseminated to all provinces and stakeholders.

– MNORT and provincial outbreak response teams have been activated.

– press releases have been circulated and various officials from departments of health and international relations have been interacting with the media and the public.

– a hotline has been set up at the NICD to field questions from clinicians.

“Port health services have been provided in 36 points of entry with a staff compliment of 300 employees,” Mkhize said.

“These officials routinely conduct temperature screening for all international travellers.”

“However, due to the current risk of importation of inadvertent cases of 2019-nCoV from Wuhan City in China, our port health authorities have intensified surveillance of all travellers from Asia, especially China.”

Screening is conducted at the ports to detect an ill traveller by the following means:

1. Temperature screening is conducted at 12 ports of entry utilising non-invasive thermometers where all travellers arriving through these ports are channelled to the temperature screening.

2. If the traveller is found to exhibit symptoms consistent with novel coronavirus, the traveller would be transported to a medical facility for further management. Contact information of travellers who may have been in contact with the ill travellers is collected and used to follow up if necessary.

3. As the busiest airport in Africa, special measures have been introduced at OR Tambo International Airport where travellers on direct aircraft from China in the past 14 days are required to complete a questionnaire for possible contact tracing.

The minister offered the following basic principles to reduce the general risk of transmission of acute respiratory infections, which include the following:

– avoiding close contact with people suffering from acute respiratory infections.

– frequent hand-washing, especially after direct contact with ill people or their environment.

– avoiding unprotected contact with farm or wild animals if travelling in China.

– when sneezing or coughing it is better to cover your nose and mouth with a tissue or arm and not your hands.

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“We wish to assure everyone that the department is adequately prepared for any local case of the novel coronavirus,” he said. While there has yet to be a case of the novel coronavirus (2019-NCOV) reported in South Africa, a Pretoria hospital is among three that have been specially equipped to...