This virus is ravaging rich countries. What happens when it hits the poor ones


Human coronavirus. Coloured transmission electron micrograph (TEM) of Human coronavirus particles. Coronaviruses primarily infect the upper respiratory and gastrointestinal tract and can cause the common cold, gastrointestinal infections and SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome). Coronaviruses are named after the corona (crown) of surface proteins (outer dots) that are used to penetrate a host cell. Once inside the cell, the virus particles (virions) use the cell’s machinery to make more copies of themselves. (Image: Science Photo Library)A father of two from KwaZulu-Natal contracted the virus while on holiday in Italy. The National Department of Health says it has a plan to deal with the disease which has claimed thousands of lives since it first appeared in Wuhan, China just months ago. 



The first Coronavirus (Covid-19) case has been confirmed in South Africa. The Department of Health announced on 5 March that a 38-year-old man from KwaZulu-Natal had contracted the virus while on holiday in Italy. 
Minister of Health Zweli Mkhize said the man, who had travelled with his wife and was part of a group of 10 holidaymakers, returned to South Africa on 1 March. Three days later he consulted a general practitioner after presenting with symptoms of fever, headache, malaise, sore throat and a cough. 

The man and his doctor have been self-isolating since the diagnosis was confirmed. The couple has two children. 
According to the statement, the Emergency Operating Centre (EOC) interviewed the 38-year-old and his doctor to find out who they had been in contact with. A tracer team has been deployed to KwaZulu-Natal with epidemiologists and clinicians from the National Institute for Communicable Diseases to find out if the people identified had been infected. 
Mkhize briefed the media on the details of the case and the department’s plans to contain the spread of the virus after attending a Parliamentary debate on South Africa’s readiness for a potential Covid-19 outbreak.
He was accompanied by Deputy Minister of Health Joe Phaahla, Acting Chief Director of the Department of Health, Dr Patrick Moonasa, and both Dr Kerrigan McCarthy as well as Dr Cheryl Cohen from the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD).
Mkhize said the department is consulting with the World Health Organisation and the NICD on a way forward and a “preparedness plan” has been put together. 
For now, 10 facilities across the country will treat Covid-19 patients. 
In KwaZulu-Natal, four hospitals have been chosen: Greys, Addington, Ngwelezane and Manguzi. 
Phaahla explained that each hospital will have an isolated ward with 20 -30 beds, depending on the size of the hospital. He estimated there would be 300-400 beds around the country and patients could be moved between hospitals to spread capacity in future. 
Mkhize clarified that hospitals would not be areas for quarantine. 
“We don’t bring people for quarantine in a hospital, they go for treatment,” he said.  
The infected KwaZulu-Natal man is being monitored for 14 days, (the incubation period for Covid-19). He is also receiving treatment from a hospital. 
The rest of the family are also under self-quarantine. 
McCarthy explained what self-isolation entails: 
“The World Health Organisation recommends that a person stays outside the radius of one metre of other family members, not share a bed, if possible sleep in a separate room, and at the first sign of symptoms, seek healthcare. The person should also not go to work or school and should remain within the confines of their home.”
Cohen said the people that the patient was in close contact with will also be asked to self-quarantine for 14 days.
“(They will) be monitored by our medical staff so that if they display any symptoms they are rapidly tested.” 
Questions arose about whether health officials would be deployed to public spaces such as taxi ranks and churches to test people for infection. He said this wouldn’t happen, but the department would consult with interest groups such as churches and sports clubs to get input on how to educate the public on how to prevent infection and monitor whether the virus is spreading in communities. 
Cohen said the NICD would start testing for Covid-19 when doing routine monitoring of respiratory diseases such as flu. 
Mkhize affirmed that currently, the department had “enough capacity” to deal with the virus, and there was no need for panic. 
“We have seen that in some of the countries they have closed down the schools, but this has been in countries where a large number of cases have been reported.”
Mkhize hit out at the media for its handling of the first detected case and for not being “fair”.
“We can’t win with the media,” he said.  “We have one case of COVID-19 and suddenly it’s the apocalypse.”
“I have seen SMSes from journalists saying that they have the [patient’s] address and are going to camp outside the house.”
Mkhize also confirmed that the cost of any treatment for infected patients would be drawn from the health budget, and that he would only request additional funding if necessary.
Asked why a passenger flying in from Italy — a COVID-19 hotspot where 2,500 infections and 79 deaths had been recorded by Wednesday — was not detected as infected, Mkhize said: “He had no symptoms, so nothing was detected.”
He said controls around passengers entering the country from Italy would be tightened.
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