The Department of  Health says South Africa will have to increase its alert for the coronavirus. It says countries will have to take extreme measures to prevent further spread of coronavirus.

This comes after the World Health Organisation declared the outbreak a pandemic. 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 4 383 have died.

In the video below WHO says countries need to remain prepared for possible cases: 

‘No surprise’

Health department’s Deputy Director-General Dr Yogan Pillay says the UN health agency’s announcement comes as no surprise. “It’s something we’ve been expecting as the numbers of people who are diagnosed positive increased especially across Europe and the number of fatalities have increased which means that all countries need to be on increased alert and learn really from China who’s been able to roll back the numbers of cases diagnosed as well as the mortality in the last week or so.”

Health Minister Zwelini Mkhize will be meeting with South African Health authorities on Thursday afternoon to discuss how the country will respond to the World Health Organisation’s declaration of the coronavirus as a pandemic.

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 we will be discussing it with the minister tomorrow evening. So once we’ve had a discussion with the minister the minister will make some additional announcements.”

More coronavirus cases in SA

Six more coronavirus cases have been confirmed in South Africa on Wednesday. This brings the number to 13. All of South Africa’s 13 current cases are not linked to China.

The latest six patients have travel history to multiple countries in Europe. SABC News Chriselda Lewis reports… 

The 13 patients are being treated in Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal and the Western Cape. The Department of Health has been working closely with the National Institute of Communicable Diseases to contain the virus.

Dr Juno Thomas is the Head of the Centre for Enteric Diseases at NICD. She explains the basics of how the virus is transmitted.

“The virus is transmitted by what we call respiratory droplets. When a sick person sneezes or coughs, the microscopic tiny droplets are released, you can’t see them with a naked eye. They contain the virus. Anyone who is in very close proximity, less than one metre, might inhale or breath in those droplets. Also importantly, those tiny droplets land in the environment.”

City of Wuhan 

While there has been speculation about where the virus originated, Dr Thomas says a wet food market in the city of Wuhan – the epicentre of the virus where meat live animals were sold – is most likely the source.

“It’s thought to have originated from a food market in Wuhan, where there were many species of animals, wild animals, domestic animals and different types of food for sale. Then there was very so close contact between the different animals and humans. The first cluster of cases of severe pneumonia in Wuhan was linked to this market place. Because it was a new disease and tested negative for all the typical viruses and bacteria that we test for, it took some time to identify that this was a new virus.”

Video: Discussion on efforts of fighting the deadly Coronavirus outbreak

Test at border posts and ports

KwaZulu-Natal Premier Sihle Zikalala says the province will be tightening measures to test against coronavirus at its border posts and ports. He explains that screening and testing would be expanded to its borders with Mozambique, Swaziland and Lesotho.

Zikalala says people are being educated about the virus at schools and clinics. He has urged the public to remain cautious and avoid spreading misinformation about the virus. Zikalala says anyone can get infected regardless of their race.

“It has no colour, it affects all people but we should equally agree that we should address the fear. There general fear that once you are infected you will  die, no, that is not correct.”

Coronavirus footprint in Africa

There are now over 100 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Africa and in more than 10 countries. Ivory Coast on Wednesday confirmed its first case.

EXPLAINER MAP:   

 

The map below tracks coronavirus cases across the world: