Health Minister, Dr Zweli Mkhize, has dismissed claims that the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) members are refusing to repatriate South Africans living in the Chinese city of Wuhan where the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak originated.
He says the Department of Health is ready to ensure that the returning South Africans are properly quarantined. Mkhize says for now South Africans should not panic.
“The people who are coming from Wuhan. None of them have been tested positive. None of them are sick, we don’t expect that should increase the risk. So these stories going all around people to panic, that must come to an end. It’s important for us to be able to say we can deal with this problem if we work together. It’s not because we are weaker that we will have a case in South Africa, it will be because we are part of the world but we will be able to deal with it.”
Earlier, it was reported that Defence Force personnel tasked with the repatriation process are unwilling to travel to China due to safety concerns.
SANDF has been tasked with the returning of 184 South Africans from Wuhan city in China which is considered the epicentre of the outbreak of the coronavirus.
Originally, 150 people indicated they wanted to return home, but this number has increased to 184.
Addressing media on Friday, Mkhize says he is concerned about the high level of misinformation on social media and fake news about Coronavirus, which might lead to unnecessary public panic.
“We must stop spreading fake news that either ridicule the efforts of the health worker or that frighten people or send stories around. You get people who now are experts on COVID-19. They tell you that coronavirus has been confirmed in their village and others have got coronavirus that has been confirmed by friends on WhatsApp. All of those kinds of things are not helping South Africa.”
Private hospital group, Life Healthcare, says testing for the novel coronavirus will only be done if a person is symptomatic and meets the World Health Organisation travel history or close contact criteria. The group’s General manager for Emergency Medicine Dr Charl van Loggerenberg outlines the standard for testing.
“Symptoms are a fever above 38 degrees Celsius, cough, sore throat, shortness of breath. If you have any of these symptoms and have travelled abroad to an infected COVID-19 area or have been in contact with the local infected patient, please visit your local GP who will liaise with us to ensure testing. If your GP is not available, call the hospital emergency unit first to advise them that will be coming into the unit. We urge community members not to panic and to ensure proper hand and coughing and sneezing hygiene. Cover your cough, cover your sneeze, and regularly wash your hands using alcohol hand sanitiser.”
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