COVID-19: National disaster declared in South Africa
On Sunday, 15 March 2020, South African president Cyril Ramaphosa announced the declaration of a National Disaster for COVID-19 in South Africa. This sent South Africans into a state of panic with the public going on frenzied shopping sprees, leaving shop shelves empty. Last week’s FRI Newsletter reported 17 positive cases of COVID-19 in South Africa. At the time of writing this article, we have 150 cases with 76 in Gauteng, 22 in KwaZulu-Natal, 1 in Limpopo, 5 in Mpumalanga and 46 in the Western Cape with no deaths to date. The fight against COVID-19 remains a collective responsibility.
“Practicing social distancing cannot be emphasised enough. This alone has the potential to substantially reduce transmission,” advised the World Health Organisation (WHO). However, if community transmission does set in, countries would need to gear their responses to slow down transmission, as well as end outbreaks. Emergency mechanism would then need to be further scaled up. A network of health facilities and hospitals for triage and surge would need to be activated to avoid overcrowding. Self-initiated isolation by people with mild diseases would continue to be the most important community intervention to reduce the burden on health system and reduce virus transmission. Testing of all suspected cases, symptomatic contacts of probable and confirmed cases, would still be needed. “The situation is evolving rapidly. We need to immediately scale up all efforts to prevent the virus from infecting more people,” said Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, Regional Director, WHO.
So now what?
With South Africa already in recession, will we be able to sustain these measures? And if so, for how long?
The COVID-19 virus is not a short term pandemic. We are only in phase one with the infections mainly from people who have travelled internationally and moving into transmission to people that have had contact with the people that have travelled internationally. We need to build resilience and put plans in motion to weather this storm long term. Personal infection control measures and social distancing is imperative to stop the spread of COVID-19.
People who live in suburban and rural areas are able to self-isolate or social distance themselves in order to break the spread of the virus. But what about the people in informal settlements, where a number of families share one room or unit with no running water?
Points to consider:
The Minister for Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (CoGTA) has, in terms of section 3 of the Disaster Management Act, 2002 (Act No. 57 of 2002) and after consulting the responsible Cabinet members, made the and gazetted regulations to deal with the spread of Regulations in the Schedule.
Also take note of the following contact numbers, information websites and downloads
The National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD): Tel: 080 002 9999 seven days a week, 24 hours a day
or Twitter @nicd_sa
WhatsApp: 0600 123 456
Clinician Hotline for healthcare providers: 0800 11 1131 24 hours
World Health Organisation (WHO) information centre:
International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) COVID-19 response coordination:
In a rare piece of good news about the coronavirus pandemic, the health ministry has announced that all the South Africans who were flown home from Wuhan, China, at the weekend had tested negative. However, they will remain in quarantine as a precautionary measure.
World Health Organisation (WHO)
WHO’s strategic objectives for this response are to:
This can be achieved through a combination of public health measures, such as rapid identification, diagnosis and management of the cases, identification and follow up of the contacts, infection prevention and controlling healthcare settings, implementation of health measures for travellers, awareness-raising in the population and risk communication.
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