President Cyril Ramaphosa has declared the Coronavirus (COVID-19) a national disaster.
South Africa has imposed a travel ban on foreign nationals from high-risk countries such as Italy, Iran, South Korea, Spain, Germany, the United States, the United Kingdom and China as from 18 March 2020.
South African citizens are advised to refrain from all forms of travel to or through the European Union, United States, United Kingdom and other identified high-risk countries such as China, Iran and South Korea.
Any foreign national who has visited high-risk countries in the past 20 days will be denied a visa.
South African citizens returning from high-risk countries will be subjected to testing and self-isolation or quarantine on return to South Africa.
South Africa has cancelled visas to visitors from those countries and previously granted visas are hereby revoked.
South Africa has 72 ports of entry in the country which are land, sea and air ports.
Of the 53 land ports, 35 will be shut down with effect from Monday, 16 March.
Two of the eight sea ports will be closed for passengers and crew changes (Mossel Bay and Saldanha).
Schools will be closed from Wednesday, 18 March, and will remain closed until after the Easter Weekend.
To compensate, the mid-year school holidays will be shortened by a week.
According the World Health Organisation (WHO) this is what you need to know about COVID-19.
What does the WHO pandemic declaration mean?
The declaration allows governments to activate preparedness plans and undertake emergency procedures to protect the public, such as travel and trade restrictions.
When is a pandemic declared?
Generally, the WHO will declare a pandemic when there is sustained community outbreaks on different continents.
When was the last global pandemic?
The WHO last declared in 2009 for the H1N1 flu.
What is the difference between an outbreak, epidemic and pandemic?
An outbreak is a sudden rise in cases of a disease in a particular place. An epidemic is a large outbreak. A pandemic means a global epidemic.
Does a pandemic reflect the severity of a disease?
A pandemic has nothing to do with how serious an illness is. It just means a disease is spreading widely and at an alarming rate.
What can I do to minimise the risk of infection?
- The virus is very susceptible to common anti-bacterial cleaning agents such as bleach, and alcohol-based cleaners (60% volume).
- Regularly and thoroughly clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
- Maintain at least 1 metre distance between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth with unclean hands.
What is self-isolation?
Self-isolation is a way to keep yourself from possibly infecting others if you think you might be infected. It involves limiting contact with public places, relatives, friends, colleagues, and public transport.
I have flu like symptoms, should I get tested?
The symptoms of COVID-19 include cough, sore throat, shortness of breath or fever. However, these are also symptoms of the flu. The National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD) recommends that you should only get tested if you display symptoms plus:
- Been in contact with a confirmed COVID-19 person;
- Travelled to a high risk country;
- Worked in or been to a healthcare facility treating people with Covid-19;
- Have a severe case of pneumonia with an unknown cause.
- However, one should consult your medical practitioner immediately if you display symptoms.
Where should I go if I want to test for COVID-19?
If you think you might have contracted the virus, you can call the NICD helpline (0800 029 999) and you will be advised on possible testing facilities. However, testing is not routinely done unless testing is indicated by a health professional therefore one would need to be assessed by your medical practitioner in order to qualify for testing.
What happens if I test positive?
Anyone who tests positive will immediately be notified and put into quarantine at home or at a facility designated to manage the outbreak. You will then remain in quarantine until repeat testing shows you no longer have the virus.
How much does the test cost?
Public sector testing is free of charge. Private laboratories such as Lancet, Ampath and Pathcare can also test for SARS-CoV-2. Enquiry should be with the respective laboratory for their costing of the test. If going via a private lab, it is advisable to check with your medical aid to ascertain if they will cover the costs for the test.
How is COVID-19 infection treated?
There is no specific treatment available for SARS-CoV-2. Treatment is supportive (e.g. providing oxygen for patients with shortness of breath or managing a fever). Antibiotics do not treat viral infections. However, antibiotics may be required if a secondary bacterial infection develops. Currently there is a vaccine being developed.
Which hospitals will treat COVID-19 infected patients?
The following hospitals have also been identified as centres for isolation and treatment of people infected with Coronavirus:
- Polokwane Hospital in Limpopo;
- Rob Ferreira Hospital in Mpumalanga;
- Charlotte Maxeke Hospital, Steve Biko Hospital and Tembisa Hospitals in Gauteng;
- Greys Hospital in KwaZulu-Natal;
- Klerksdorp Hospital in the North West;
- Kimberly Hospital in the Northern Cape;
- Pelonomi Hospital in the Free State;
- Livingstone Hospital in the Eastern Cape; and
- Tygerberg Hospital in the Western Cape.