NICD: SA has plans to fight coronavirus outbreak
17 people have been killed and over 500 have been affected in China, as travellers carried the virus to other countries.
JOHANNESBURG – The National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NCID) on Wednesday said it had put plans in place in South Africa to fight the coronavirus outbreak, should it spread to the country.
The virus has already spread from China to the United States. At least 17 people have been killed and over 500 have been affected in China, as travellers carried the virus to other countries.
The institution said this was a necessary precaution in case of any eventuality.
The institute’s Cheryl Cohen said: “The most important thing is that we need proper systems in place to properly identify and test cases. We have done a number of activities.”
AUTHORITIES INVESTIGATING ORIGIN
Chinese authorities are trying to determine the origin of the virus, which they say came from a market in Wuhan where wildlife was traded illegally. The World Health Organisation (WHO) says an animal appears most likely to be the primary source.
China’s National Health Commission Vice Minister Li Bin told reporters on 22 January there was evidence of respiratory transmission of the virus from patient to patient. Chinese authorities say 15 medical staff have been infected.
Some experts say the virus may not be as deadly as other coronaviruses such as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), which killed nearly 800 people during a 2002-2003 outbreak also originating from China.
There is no vaccine for the new virus, which China says is mutating. Symptoms include fever, cough and difficulty in breathing.
Chinese authorities shut down all urban transport networks and suspended outgoing flights from Wuhan, as of 0200 GMT Thursday, and urged residents not to leave the city and advised against travel into the city. Authorities are also cutting the city off from highways, according to state media reports.
They have also stepped up monitoring and disinfection efforts ahead of the Lunar New Year break that starts on 24 January.
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 strengthened sanitary and quarantine controls at entry points.
Taiwan advised people not to visit Wuhan unless absolutely necessary and suspended Wuhan tourist groups from visiting the island. Britain, Singapore and Australia also have advised against all but essential travel to the city.
The WHO sent directives to hospitals around the world on infection prevention and control. The UN body will decide on Thursday whether to declare the outbreak a global emergency.
Additional reporting by Reuters.