[imagesource: Esa Alexander / Sunday Times]
At least 73 countries now have confirmed cases of the coronavirus, so I guess it’s only a matter of time until it reaches our shores.
There are precautions you can take to minimise your risk of contracting COVID-19, but even those are not failsafe, which is one reason that the spread continues around the world.
You can follow a real-time tracker of confirmed cases of the coronavirus here, with more than 90 000 infections at the time of writing.
Whilst two South African citizens have tested positive for the virus, they were on a cruise ship in Japan. Much has been made of how ready South Africa will be if (when) the virus arrives on our shores, and the Daily Maverick decided to send questions to the Department of Health and the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD).
Here are some of the more pressing questions from their list of 22, and the response by Dr Lwazi Manzi, Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize’s spokesperson.
What should someone in South Africa do if he or she suspects they may have contracted COVID-19?
People who develop symptoms of respiratory illness including cough, fever and shortness of breath either or during and after travel to countries where coronavirus is known to be circulating must seek medical care early and share information about travel history with their healthcare providers. The General Public Hotline Number is 0800 029 999 and operates on weekdays, Monday to Friday, during 08h00 to 16h00.
What is your advice for the public in South Africa regarding the use of masks?
There is no evidence that masks protect people who are not sick/infected. If you are healthy, you only need to wear a mask if you are taking care of a person with suspected 2019-nCoV infection. Wear a mask if you are coughing or sneezing. Masks are effective only when used in combination with frequent hand-cleaning with alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water. If you wear a mask, read the package insert that will guide you on the proper use and disposal of the mask.
That’s an important answer, because a great deal has been made of the use of masks these past few days.
For more on masks, and when to wear them and when not to, head here.
Should people in South Africa be placed under quarantine, either in facilities, or in their homes or their communities, what support will the state provide such people given potential loss of income and reduced access to services and food.
Quarantine would be in a facility.
All amenities and provisions would be provided.
The state is not obliged to compensate for loss of income.
Ah, nothing like spending a few weeks in quarantine and being grossly out of pocket for the privilege.
Which airports in South Africa are checking for possible infections and are they checking every incoming flight?
A nice, succinct answer. You should also follow a few basic guidelines when travelling through airports and on flights.
We now know that more than 150 South Africans who live in Wuhan, the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak, are set to be brought home, more than likely at some point this week.
That has also caused some consternation, but Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize says that only those who are asymptomatic will be repatriated.
They will be flown home on a chartered plane, before spending 21 days under strict quarantine at an undisclosed location, which many have speculated may be an SANDF base near Bloemfontein.
In order to prevent anybody from leaving, they will be guarded by soldiers.
Let’s hope our fellow South Africans get the all-clear, and can be reunited with families that have been worried sick for weeks.
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