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Minister Mkhize: No need to panic in SA over coronavirus

Since the outbreak was detected in China a month ago, at least 132 people have died, and more than 6,000 people have been affected.

Health Minister Zweli Mkhize briefed the media on South Africa’s readiness to deal with the coronavirus outbreak that started in China and spread to several other countries on 29 January 2020. Picture: @DrZweliMkhize/Twitter

CAPE TOWN/JOHANNESBURG - South Africa is on high alert to deal with any outbreak of the coronavirus on home soil but authorities insist there is no need to panic.

Since the outbreak was detected in China about a month ago, at least 132 people have died, and more than 6,000 people have been affected.

No cases have been reported in South Africa, but tests are being run on patients in other African countries.

Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said there was no need to panic.

The National Institute for Communicable Diseases has set up a dedicated team to run a 24/7 operation centre, which would activate an “alert mode” if a case were to be detected.

He said a suspected case was picked up in Zambia.

WATCH: Ministers Mkhize, Motsoaledi on SA's response to

Mkhize said the country was prepared to respond adequately to the coronavirus.

“Our port officials are conducting temperature screening for all travellers. We have thermal screening.”

At the moment, there are no restrictions in place when it comes to travelling to China, but government is advising South Africans to avoid going there unless it’s absolutely necessary.

Meanwhile, Australian medical experts may have made a breakthrough in combating the deadly coronavirus sweeping the world.

A laboratory is the first outside of China to grow the Wuhan coronavirus from a patient sample.

It's hoped the development will provide international laboratories with crucial information and help scientists.

SA HOSPITALS IDENTIFIED

Three public hospitals have been identified in South Africa to deal with an outbreak of the deadly coronavirus should it reach home soil.

Tembisa Hospital, Steve Biko Academic Hospital and Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital have been identified as the best-placed facilities to deal with patients suspected of having contracted the coronavirus.

Questions have been raised about whether these hospitals will have the necessary capacity, equipment and staff to deal with detected cases effectively. But Mkhize is not worried.

“Yes, there will be challenges. This doesn’t mean the whole hospital is open to treating hundreds of cases.”

The South African government is in contact with the World Health Organisation regularly to get updates on any new development of the deadly virus. So far, WHO South Africa said there was no need to restrict travel to China.

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