South Africa

No SA coronavirus cancellations or travel bans for now – Zweli Mkhize

By News24 4 March 2020

A passenger stands with their luggage in the departures hall at O.R. Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg, South Africa.(Photo: Guillem Sartorio/Bloomberg/ Getty Images)

The South African government was not considering any travel or trade bans at this point, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said in a briefing to MPs on the global coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak on Wednesday.

Mkhize told Parliament’s health portfolio committee that, given the fact that South Africa had not had any confirmed cases of the Covid-19 disease, it would not be cancelling any big international events or closing any of its ports of entry.

“We are very vigilant screening people coming from various areas,” Mkhize told News24 on the sidelines of the briefing.

“We are going to be observing and monitoring how the situation pans out. At the moment, we stay as we are, but the situation is evolving. I can never tell what will happen in the future.”

Covid-19 has killed more than 3 000 people globally, with reported infections topping 90 000 on Wednesday.

The minister said he would not be divulging the date on which more than 150 South Africans stranded in Wuhan, the epicentre of the Chinese coronavirus outbreak, would be repatriated back to South Africa. He did, however, add that none had exhibited any symptoms of the virus.

“I’m aware that preparations are at an advanced stage and the defence force is in the process of procuring the aircrafts and the staff for China. We’re also activating all our people in China to make sure they give us all the necessary information.”

The health department said it was consulting with authorities in China, Canada and the US on quarantine protocols.

“We can treat any patient landing in this country, and we have every province ready to treat such people,” Mkhize told the committee on Wednesday.

The minister said 13 hospitals had been designated to isolate and treat people showing symptoms of the virus and that private hospitals had been roped in to ensure no patient fell between the cracks.

The department was making sure the floors and arrival halls of ports of entry were being disinfected. It had also recommended that all immigration officials wear masks and gloves.

News24

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