As government works to contain the spread of the coronavirus, Parliament’s health portfolio committee will visit OR Tambo International Airport on Friday morning to assess screening processes.
On Thursday, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize revealed South Africa’s first positive COVID-19 case – a 38-year-old KwaZulu-Natal man who travelled from Italy.
The parliamentary oversight committee will go on a walk-about of the airport to see how people travelling into the country are screened. Members of Parliament (MPs) expressed their concern over South Africa’s ability to deal with the outbreak.
Democratic Alliance (DA) health spokesperson Siviwe Gwarube, who sponsored Thursday’s debate in the National Assembly on the virus, said South Africa had a potential health crisis on its hands and people should prepare for the worst.
“We should never unjustifiably spread fear; however, we should prepare for the worst. We know the state of our healthcare outside of an epidemic outbreak,”
Economic Freedom Fighters’ MP Naledi Chirwa was more scathing, saying the threat should have everyone concerned.
“If coronavirus can make a country like China build a hospital in weeks and still claim thousands of lives, what do you think it will do to SA that takes 10 years to build one dysfunctional maternity ward?”
But the Inkatha Freedom Party’s Mkhuleko Hlengwa said in the face of a crisis, panic was not a solution, while the African Christian Democratic Party called for prayer.
SA COOPERATING WITH WHO
Meanwhile, President Cyril Ramaphosa said South Africa was in constant contact with the World Health Organisation (WHO) as the country traced the steps of its first case of the coronavirus.
The National Institute for Communicable Diseases’ (NICD) professor Cheryl Cohen said the institute was retracing the steps of the country’s first COVID-19 patient to determine if anyone else was at risk
“We are actively doing contact tracing to ensure containment of the virus,” she said.
Ramaphosa said South Africa was cooperating with the WHO to ensure that the one case didn’t become a crisis.
“To be immediately in touch with the World Health Organisation and the minister has done that – that’s the help that we would need – but other countries such as China have been able to contain it and we wish them luck. We will be in touch with other experts,” he said.
The president already warned that the impact of coronavirus will be big on the country’s already ailing economy, starting with tourism.