COVID-19: An African Update

As COVID-19 spreads across the world, and concerns grow, we’ve decided to provide an update from an African perspective.

South Africans repatriated from Wuhan

President Cyril Ramaphosa on Tuesday hailed the South African team travelling to Wuhan, China, on a repatriation mission, as heroes who carry the pride and hope of the nation. The team comprising members of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) and a medical team from the Department of Health left for Wuhan, the epicenter of the Coronavirus outbreak, from OR Tambo International Airport, last night.

“This is an important mission for the country. We are so proud of your commitment. We thank you for doing it for the country. I want you to go out there knowing that you are carrying the whole country,” President Ramaphosa said. He told the excited team that they are not going alone, but they are traveling with God. President Ramaphosa used the opportunity to allay the fears of South Africans, saying that the people that the team is going to repatriate, are not sick.

“This team is going to fetch people who are well. We will keep screening them to check if we cannot find someone who got an infection, if there are, we will take them out for treatment,” President Ramaphosa said. Prior to bidding farewell to the team, President Ramaphosa, accompanied by Health Minister, Dr Zweli Mkhize and Defence and Military Veterans Minister, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, conducted a walkabout at the OR Tambo International Airport.

The walkabout showed the President the state of readiness at the airport in case of any arrivals from Coronavirus countries. The President was also shown a clinic at the airport were patients are treated. Government initially received more than 180 requests from South Africans in Wuhan to be repatriated to South Africa, but more than 60 of them subsequently changed their minds and decided to remain in China.

Government will now repatriate 122 South Africans from the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan, China. Minister Mkhize also emphasized that none of the South Africans in China have Coronavirus but said they will still be quarantined and tested as part of health requirements when they arrive back home from Wuhan. Mkhize thanked the team for their willingness to assist in the repatriation. “I would like to thank you for assisting in the repatriation. You are doing this for the country,” he said.

A member of the team, a medical doctor from the Department of Health, Dr Ahmed Bam, told SAnews that he is proud to be taking part on this important mission. “I’m very honored to be given the opportunity to serve the people of my country,” he said. Asked if he is not afraid of contracting the virus, he confidently said that will not happen as they are well prepared and taking all the precautionary measures into account.

“My duty is to save lives and that’s exactly what I am going to do,” he said, adding that he is proud to serve the country and that he is prepared to do anything to save lives. Dr Bam said saving lives is what he does and that to him is his calling.

COVID-19 in South Africa

The number of Coronavirus cases in South Africa has risen to 13, after six more new cases were confirmed on Wednesday. As a precaution, the Department of Health has embarked on a rigorous campaign of tracing every person the 13 individuals have been in contact with since returning to South Africa.

Some of the identified patients had shown symptoms, while others had not. However, they have all been placed on self-quarantine at home or have been admitted to hospital.

Our Managing Director recently returned to Cape Town, South Africa, from a trip to Europe, and the only place she saw people being tested for COVID-19 was at our own Cape Town International Airport. You can see the testing taking place in the video below.

First Case in DRC

The Ministry of Public Health in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has reported the country’s first case of COVID-19. Health authorities said tests found that a Congolese national, who had recently returned to Kinshasa from his residence in France had tested positive for the virus.

The DRC is one of eleven countries in Africa to have confirmed a case of COVID-19. The other countries are: Algeria, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Egypt, Morocco, Nigeria, South Africa, Senegal, Togo and Tunisia. This comes as the country’s largest Ebola outbreak appears to be winding down, with no new cases of the disease confirmed in the past 21 days.

“It is sad to hear that just as the DRC appears to be near ending its worst Ebola outbreak, a new virus is threatening the health of its citizens,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Director for Africa. “However, some of the readiness efforts put in place during the Ebola outbreak may help the country respond to COVID-19. WHO is here to support you, just as we continue to do in the Ebola response.”

Tracking the spread

To track the spread of the virus on a live map, made by researchers at Johns Hopkins University, click here.

Staying healthy

To see a list of things the World Health Organization recommends to protect yourself as best as possible, click here. The list includes practicing social distancing, washing your hands frequently, practicing good respiratory hygiene, and seeking medical care as soon as possible if you experience symptoms.

Plans for the workplace

US HR consultancy Mercer has published a 10-point guide for planning around the virus for your workplace. To read the guide, click here.

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Sources: [1], [2], [3]. Image sources: [1], [2].