The World Health Organisation (WHO) on Monday warned the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak is putting a strain on health systems.
The global health body stressed that containing the virus was possible, saying all countries had to prioritise the crisis.
The message from the WHO was clear: countries that have not registered any coronavirus cases yet need to be ready for the inevitable.
Maria van Kerkhove, head of the WHO’s investigation task force, said countries should prepare their health systems and be ready to implement medical interventions.
“The time to act is now,” she said.
Outside of China, 8,739 COVID-19 cases were reported from 61 countries with 127 deaths.
Dr Michael Ryan, WHO health emergencies programme director, said authorities’ actions would determine the course of the outbreak in their countries.
“All health systems come under pressure from this disease and we’ve seen that at a global level. It doesn’t matter what country you’re in, this disease will stretch your health system,” Ryan said.
The WHO said it would classify the outbreak as a pandemic if there was evidence that pointed to it.
WC READINESS FOR POSSIBLE COVID-19 CASES
Meanwhile, the Western Cape Health Department has downplayed concerns it would not be able to manage possible COVID-19 cases.
During a press briefing at the Provincial Legislature on Monday, officials said they had tested 32 suspected cases in the province, but all came back negative.
Officials tried to allay fears amid the rapidly spreading virus that caused global financial markets to nosedive last week. The Health Department officials urged the public to trust their readiness and not share fake or misleading information regarding the spread of the coronavirus.
Dr Wayne Smith, head of disaster medicine and special events, said they had a solid plan in place should the first case be identified.
“The system is robust in that we have tested it in the past. It’s not something brand new that we are doing for the first time,” he said.
Infectious diseases physician at Tygerberg Hospital Dr Jantjie Taljaard said only those with the relevant symptoms would be tested for the novel coronavirus.
Officials said a process was also under way to get local pathology laboratories accredited to conduct coronavirus testing.
At present, only the National Health Laboratory Service could perform testing.