The National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) has assured South Africans that there are contingency plans in place to combat the possibility of the deadly Coronna virus spreading to the country.
The Division of the National Health Laboratory Service issued a statement on Thursday, after the virus spread from China to the United states through a traveler on Wednesday. The patient is understood to be in isolation at a Washington hospital.
By the 23 January 2020, the virus has claimed 17 lives and infected over 570 people. Those infected included 15 medical staff in Wuhan, where the outbreak originated, allegedly through an animal.
Large public events were cancelled and international football matches were moved to new locations, while supply of items such as hand sanitizer and face marks have been thinned out.
All urban transport networks in the city were shut down and outgoing flights suspended. Airports in the United States and Britain, as well as many Asian countries, including Japan, Thailand, Singapore and South Korea, stepped up screening of passengers from Wuhan. Russia also tightened sanitary and quarantine controls at entry points.
Chinese health commission vice minister Li Bin is quoted as warning that the coronavirus can mutate and spread further. Chinese authorities have since stepped up monitoring and disinfection efforts ahead of the Lunar New Year break that starts on Friday.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) is engaged in talks to decide whether or not to declare the outbreak of the coronavirus (2019-nCoV) a global emergency.
The NICD has confirmed that it has put plans in place to combat the virus, should it spread to South Africa.
“There have been no cases identified on the continent or in South Africa. we are actively monitoring the situation globally and preparing for the possibility should a case be imported to South Africa,” said spokesperson Prof Cheryl Cohen.
Cohen added that there are additional resources on stand-by to deal with high risk situations.
“This includes the South African emergency operation centre, which is really an integrated co-ordinating centre for this type of outbreak. It allows us to act in a co-ordinated fashion and release more resources should the need arise,” she assured.