Health authorities in South Africa will meet with Health Minister Zweli Mkhize on Thursday afternoon, to discuss how the country will respond to the World Health Organisation’s declaration of the coronavirus as a pandemic.

The United Nations health agency announced the declaration on Wednesday night. The term pandemic relates to a geographic spread and is used to describe a disease that affects a whole country or the entire world.

More than 121 500 people have been infected by the coronavirus across the world and 4383 have died.

Deputy Director-General in the Health Department Doctor Yogan Pillay says, “It means that globally the world will have to be on higher alert and countries might have to increasingly take more extreme measures to both isolate patients, put patients into quarantine and restrict movement. So once we’ve had a discussion with the minister the minister will make some additional announcements.”

EXPLAINER: How coronavirus reached Africa:


Repatriation process

Mkhize will Thursday also meet the Limpopo Provincial Working Committee to update it on the repatriation process of 122 South Africans from Wuhan in China.

Of those being repatriated seven are from the Limpopo province.

Government has assured the public that all those coming back home have tested negative for the COVID-19 infection.

Mkhize will be joined by Deputy Minister Dr Joe Phaahla and the Deputy Secretary-General of the ANC Jessie Duarte.

In the video below SABC Foreign Editor Sophie Mokoena gives update on SANDF’s Wuhan evacuation:

Journalists must conduct research

The South African National Editors’ Forum (SANEF) says journalists must conduct research and only rely on experts when reporting on the coronavirus.

It also says it is important that journalists maintain the doctor-patient confidentiality when reporting on the coronavirus.

This means not disclosing a person’s identity without their permission, as has happened on social media.

SANEF held a seminar on Ethics, Journalism and Safety in the digital age in Durban on Wednesday.

The seminar was aimed at reinforcing the mandate of maintaining ethical journalism, and the safety and integrity of editors and reporters.

SANEF’s Media Freedom Chairperson, Mary Papayya says, “For instance around the coronavirus, people want to know the names of the infected, from that perspective issues around doctor-patient confidentiality has to be maintained and what’s important is for the journalist to understand and go out there and research as much as they can around the disease.”

Papayya says,  “One must understand that ethics are important to build the public trust, we’ve seen the transgression from recent years around certain stories that were questionable when those kinds of transgressions happen, the public trust in the media drops considerably.”

In the video below, Mary Papayya calls on media to practice ethical journalism:

Warning to TB patients

The Aurum Institute in Johannesburg has advised people with tuberculosis to take extra precautions in the wake of the coronavirus.

The institute’s senior technical expert on TB and HIV Doctor Regina Osih says while there is no evidence of how the coronavirus can affect TB patients, they encourage patients to immediately seek medical attention should they start showing symptoms of the coronavirus.

The World Health Organisation estimates that 301 000 people contracted TB in South Africa and 63 000 of them succumbed to the disease in 2018.

There are 13 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in South Africa.

Dr Osih says none of them have been reported to also have TB.

She says, “Both of these diseases affect the lungs, we extrapolate that there would be some impact of having coronavirus to people with TB and therefore if people with TB are experiencing symptoms they should really try and get tested as soon as possible. Again we don’t know that for sure because we don’t necessarily have evidence or experience of treating both diseases.”

Below is a video mapping coronavirus footprint in Africa:

Additional reporting by Samke Litchfield and Nonjabulo Mntungwa.