The novel coronavirus (now officially named COVID-19), the facts we know
The World Health Organisation (WHO) asked countries to be “as aggressive as possible” in fighting the officially-named COVID-19 coronavirus on Tuesday, 11 February 2020. The WHO said there was a “realistic chance” of stopping the deadly virus originating from China that has killed more than 1 000 people. “If we invest now... we have a realistic chance of stopping this outbreak,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus reported in Geneva. The current statistics as it 12 February 2020 according to the Worldometer are 45 171 Coronavirus cases, 1 115 deaths, 4 794 recoveries. Visit https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/ for daily updates.
On 30 January 2020 WHO declared the emergence of the novel coronavirus a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC). This decision by WHO director-general (DG) Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, was made following the recommendations of the Emergency Committee in its second meeting convened under the International Health Regulations (IHR) (2005). In his decision, the WHO DG stressed ‘the potential for the virus to spread to countries with weaker health systems and which are ill-prepared to deal with it’ as one major concern and the importance of ‘preventing the spread of the virus and ensuring a measured and evidence-based response’. On the same day South Africa activated its Emergency Operations Centre (EOC). According to a statement by Dr Lwazi Manzi, ministerial liaison officer for the Ministry of Health, the South African Department of Health continues to closely monitor the rapidly evolving developments surrounding the coronavirus outbreak. The WHO provides the ministry with daily situational updates and continues to inform them should there be revisions in guidelines.
The National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD), a division of the National Health Laboratory Service, to date has conducted 42 tests for the novel coronavirus (originally known as 2019-nCoV, now officially named COVID-19) and all results have come back negative. As of 7 February 2020, the NICD confirms that there is no positive case of the COVID-19 in South Africa. It is important to note that the collection and testing of samples from individuals with symptoms is normal and demonstrates effective surveillance of the COVID-19.
The Department of Health continues to intensify screening at all ports of entry with a particular focus on our major airports. This approach remains supported as the vast majority of cases are introduced into territories outside of China by air travellers. They have deployed additional staff and asked for the assistance of medical staff from the National Defence Force to beef up screening where additional capacity was needed.
There is still no recommendation to restrict travel or trade with China. The Ministry of Health have not put any restriction on travel or trade between China and South Africa although they do continue to advise that non- essential travel should be delayed until the situation abates.
Dr Manzi stated, “We are encouraged by the emerging statistics, which show that as the numbers of affected people increases, the morbidity and mortality rate decreases, suggesting that the virus is not as virulent as those strains that caused SARS and MERS. The in-hospital recovery rate is exceeding the in-hospital mortality rate. The vast majority of patients experience mild to moderate flu-like symptoms. The Chinese system has also been sensitised towards the coronavirus and so the detection rate is currently extremely high.”
There are now strict rules in place regarding the movement of people between territories in China. They have also fine-tuned regulations on trade and logistics to ensure that food security and essential amenities remain protected whilst at the same time not enabling the spread of the virus.
To prevent the spread of the COVID-19, the NICD recommends good practice of hand hygiene, cough etiquette and avoiding contact with animals when in a high-risk country and adhering to the following:
The NICD assures the public that systems have been put in place to rapidly identify and detect any imported cases of the COVID-19 in South Africa and that the country is prepared should we have a positive case.
The following is an excerpt from the ‘Standard operating procedures for preparedness, detection and response to a coronavirus outbreak in South Africa’ document released by the South African Department of Health. Download the full PDF here:
On 31 December 2019, the WHO China Country Office was informed of cases of pneumonia of unknown cause detected in Wuhan City, Hubei Province of China. On 7 January 2020, the causative pathogen was identified as a novel coronavirus. The majority of these cases were linked to a seafood, poultry and live wildlife market in Wuhan City, suggesting that the novel coronavirus has a possible animal origin. According to WHO, as of 29 January 2020, 6 065 cases have been reported globally; 5 997 cases and 132 deaths were reported in China; 68 cases were reported from outside China (in 15 countries). It should be noted that the number of cases is increasing; for the latest update refer to https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019. The incubation period is currently estimated to be up to 14 days.
Coronaviruses belong to a large family of viruses causing a wide spectrum of illness, ranging from very mild to severe. Some cause illness in people; numerous other coronaviruses circulate among animals, including camels and some bat species. Rarely, some animal coronaviruses can evolve to cause illness in people. Sometimes coronaviruses may develop the ability to spread from person to person, for example the Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV), first reported from Saudi Arabia in 2012 and the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV), first recognised in China in 2002.
A WHO Emergency Committee meeting was convened on Wednesday, 22 January 2020 by the WHO Director-General under the International Health Regulations (IHR2005) regarding the outbreak of novel 2019-nCoV (now named COVID-19) in the People’s Republic of China. The WHO Expert Committee acknowledged that developments in China are concerning, noted the country’s intense efforts to investigate and contain the outbreak but concluded that at this stage, a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) would not be declared. As infected travellers may appear in any country (to date, cases have been reported in Japan, Republic of Korea, Vietnam, Singapore, Australia, Malaysia, Cambodia, Thailand, Nepal, Sri Lanka, USA, Canada, France, Germany, United Arab Emirates, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Macau) the committee recommended that all countries should be prepared for containment, including active surveillance, early detection, isolation and case management, contact tracing and prevention of onward spread of COVID-19 infection and to share full data with WHO.
Reliable, credible information on coronavirus can be obtained from the WHO website and social media pages, the National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD) website and social media pages and the Department of Health website and social media pages. We continue to receive a high number of calls through the designated hospitals or the clinician’s 24 hour hotline. Anyone who experiences flu-like symptoms with a travel history or contact with someone who has travelled, particularly to China, should seek immediate medical attention at their nearest clinic, general practitioner (GP) or hospital.
China completes emergency hospital in nine days for virus outbreak
China completed work on the emergency Huoshenshan Hospital, near the Zhiyin Lake in Caidian District, Wuhan, Hubei, China on Sunday, 2 February 2020,which is set up to tackle the new coronavirus outbreak in its epicentre in Wuhan. The 1 000-bed hospital that has an area of 34 000 square metres, was officially delivered to military medics, as about 1 400 medical staff from the armed forces have been tasked with treating patients in Huoshenshan Hospital starting Monday, 3 February 2020. The hospital was built in record-time as construction began on 23 January 2020.
The construction of Leishenshan Hospital, which is situated in the Athletes Village in Jiangxia District, Wuhan, Hubei, is now also complete. It can provide 1 500 beds and accommodate more than 2 000 medical staff. The first batch of #coronavirus patients were transferred to the specialist hospital on 8 February 2020.
We trust that you find the above information of use as there are so many fake media messages creating panic and anxiety. Let’s trust and pray that the virus will not hit South Africa and that those suffering from it will recover speedily and completely. We trust that the spread of the virus will be contained, hopefully eliminated and fatalities reduced.
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