Travelling overseas puts you at risk of contracting COVID-19 - Netcare CEO

Seven people tested positive for the coronavirus in South Africa but government and the private sector said there was no need for panic.

Netcare Milpark hospital. Picture: Abigail Javier/EWN

JOHANNESBURG - Netcare Group’s CEO Richard Friedland is advising South Africans not to travel to places where there has been a communal outbreak of COVID-19.

Seven people tested positive for the coronavirus in South Africa but government and the private sector said there was no need for panic.

Government has not imposed any travel restrictions for now and the Department of Transport said it was monitoring developments closely.

Eyewitness News sat down with Friedland on Tuesday to discuss the global outbreak of the disease that has claimed more than 4,000 lives globally.

WATCH: 5 things Netcare is doing to curb spread of COVID-19

With the Easter holidays coming up next month, many South Africans are apprehensive about travelling abroad.

Friedland said travelling overseas put people at risk of contracting the coronavirus and passing it on to others.

“When you come back, you may or may not be well - it is incumbent on you to isolate yourself for up to 14 days and we don’t think that at this time, one should expose oneself to that risk,” he said.

He said now was the time for early and decisive intervention.

“As South Africans, this is a ‘Thuma Mina’ moment, we need to stand together and work together and prevent the spread into our more vulnerable communities and rid South Africa of coronavirus,” Friedland said

The Netcare Group CEO said South Africans had good reason to worry about the outbreak and to avoid careless behaviour.

Friedland compared it to taking out insurance, being cautious and prepared rather than regretting it later.


Meanwhile, private hospitals were working closely with government to stop the spread of COVID-19 with the Netcare Group committing to helping in the public sector if the need arises.

The Netcare Hospital Group has screened over 2,500 people for the disease since January. To date, not a single one of those tests had come back positive.

To prevent coronavirus from spreading, Netcare is making use of 45 robotic machines which can disinfect a room in 10 minutes using a pulsed high dose ultraviolet light.

Friedland said they rolled out this technology four years ago and would continue to use it during the COVID-19 outbreak.

“It is very effective and the old technology was using Hydrogen peroxide but because that’s a toxic chemical, that could take up to eight hours in a ward. This literally takes five to 10 minutes,” Friedland said.

He said the private sector was working closely with government and is coordinating weekly with the health minister working as a collective to limit the spread of coronavirus.

“A shout out to our minister of health, he is leading from the front in dealing with what could potentially be something very serious for our country. And it’s at times like these that we have to put selfish interests aside,” he said.

At Netcare Milpark Hospital in Parktown, visitors and patients are screened to check whether they had contracted the disease after visiting affected countries in the last 21 days. They were only allowed in once they got the all-clear.

Anyone arriving with symptoms in the emergency section would be isolated until the coronavirus could be ruled out.