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NICD on alert as Coronavirus spreads in Asia

In their latest update, officials confirmed the new strain of coronavirus had infected 291 people and was spreading to Thailand, Japan and now South Korea.

Picture: Unsplash.com

JOHANNESBURG - The National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD) on Tuesday said there was no cause for concern in South Africa over a mysterious respiratory condition that has already killed at least four people in China.

In their latest update on Tuesday, officials confirmed the new strain of Coronavirus had infected 291 people and was spreading to Thailand, Japan and now South Korea.

Chinese health authorities said it can be transmitted between humans.

The NICD’s Cheryl Cohen reassured South Africans that measures were being put in place to guard against the disease entering the country.

“It is a concern that this virus can spread between people, but up to now, the people who have caught this virus have been really close family contacts of other people with the virus or doctors and nurses who are caring closely for people with the virus,” she said.

INFOGRAPHIC: What you need to know about the Coronavirus

Factfile on the coronavirus family, which circulate in animals and can be transmitted to humans. A new strain of this virus has been identified in Wuhan, China. Picture: AFP

Meanwhile, the outbreak spread from the central city of Wuhan to cities including Beijing and Shanghai in China, with more than 200 cases reported so far. Four cases have been reported outside China - in South Korea, Thailand and Japan.

Australia on Tuesday said it would screen passengers on flights from Wuhan amid rising concerns that the virus will spread globally as Chinese travellers take flights abroad for the Lunar New Year holiday starting this week.

Authorities around the globe, including in the United States and many Asian countries, have stepped up screening of travellers from Wuhan.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) said on Monday an animal source appeared most likely to be the primary origin of the outbreak and that some “limited human-to-human transmission” occurred between close contacts.

The Geneva-based UN agency convened an emergency committee for Wednesday to assess whether the outbreak constitutes an international health emergency and what measures should be taken to manage it.

So far, the WHO has not recommended trade or travel restrictions, but a panel of independent experts could do so or make other recommendations to limit spread.

Additional reporting by Reuters.

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