WC readiness for COVID-19 (NOVEL CORONAVIRUS): What the public should know
Following the Presidential announcement to repatriate South African citizens from Wuhan, the Western Cape Government Health held a media briefing on Monday, 2 March, to detail provincial readiness and the measures put into place to address COVID-19 in the province.
We realise that there are high levels of public anxiety, but we urge the public to remain calm and follow the basic guidelines. Maintaining a healthy Western Cape is our top priority.
The Department has world-class systems and facilities, which have been tried and tested in the past, and we are doing everything possible to ensure that we are fully prepared for any scenario.
“We urge the public to trust our preparedness and readiness and not share fake or misleading information. We have created platforms where they can access official and up to date information and ask the media to support the Department in assuring the public of their safety as well as guiding them on the appropriate access to health services,” said Dr Nomafrench Mbombo, Western Cape Minister of Health.
As this is an evolving virus, we should note the different situations in which a country can find itself. South Africa currently has no confirmed cases. However, we continue to monitor the situation and will adapt as required. This includes the regular readiness assessments.
We are planning accordingly with all sectors involved and have a 72 hour response plan should the first confirmed and contact tracing teams trained and ready to respond when required.
The case definition remains the same. For someone to be confirmed positive they would need to have flu-like symptoms (mild to severe respiratory illness with a sudden onset of fever, cough, difficulty breathing and a sore throat) but need to also have a travel history to an area where the virus has been confirmed or had come into contact with a person who has the virus. South Africa is following international protocol and has developed and distributed clinical guidelines and case definitions to doctors and nurses in both the public and the private sectors. We urge people to follow their normal route to access health service through their local health facility.
If a person presents to a health facility and matches the criteria it is standard procedure to isolate them in a suitable room/unit for assessment, apply infection prevention and control measures. This is done at all health facilities. The facility will then contact the Infectious Disease Specialist/Virologist at Tygerberg or Groote Schuur Hospital. Following the assessment and if required, a test will be done and sent to the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) for analysis. This laboratory is the only laboratory which can confirm COVID-19.
WHAT ARE THE IMPORTANT STEPS TO FOLLOW WHEN EXPERIENCING FLU SYMPTOMS?
- If flu-like symptoms occur, please follow normal practice: visit a health facility and report specific details (travel overseas or potential exposure). This applies to public and private sectors.
- The healthcare practitioner will determine whether tests are required and consult with provincial authorities and notify NICD
- If the patient fits the case definition they will either be isolated, or requested to self-isolate at home
- Tests are confirmed within 24-48 hours and the patient will be notified
- If positive, patient will be monitored closely, isolated and treated supportively. This may also involve self-isolation at home (with no contact with outside people)
- If negative, the patient needs to continue medical treatment as prescribed by health practitioner
- If positive, family, friends, colleagues and other contacts will be followed up for contact tracing (monitoring for symptoms)
WHAT CAN I DO TO HELP?
- Please follow normal preventative health hygiene practice (hand washing, coughing etiquette) to keep healthy
- Please seek medical help when experiencing flu symptoms
- Disclose history and exposure
- Please co-operate with isolation and quarantine advisories
- Please co-operate with contact tracing instructions (temperature checks and follow up communication)
- Please do not share fake news. Share information responsibly.
- Check and share information from official Health channels or WHO
- To assist members of the public and health facilities stay updated, we have also launched a dedicated webpage: www.westerncape.gov.za/coronavirus. We encourage members of the public to check the page for updates.
WHAT THE DEPARTMENT AND THE PROVINCE ARE DOING
In addition to routine health measures, we are working with our partners at City Health and the private sectors, Port Health and ACSA, National Department and many more to ensure that we are ready to respond. Thermal scanning is in place at CT International, as one of the monitoring tools. Provincial response preparations are characterized by weekly information sharing and daily consultations with our colleagues at NICD.
Individual persons of interest/persons under investigation that are identified at the Points of Entry / Cape Town International Airport are managed by the Provincial Health Operational command centre. Upon identification, they are taken to Tygerberg hospital for monitoring and isolation.
We have had a total of 32 suspected cases of COVID-19 in our province, all negative, (as at 28th of February 2020)- “cases tested” (as all persons of interest/under investigation does not necessarily fit the case definition).
Should a COVID-19 case be confirmed in the Province, much effort will be directed towards containing this case and following up contacts. As a Department, Health participates in the Provincial Joint Operations Command centre, as part of provincial Disaster Management. Should multiple cases be confirmed in the Province at community level, the Command Centre will be fully activated, and daily liaison will take place about protecting citizens and managing patients. Other partners (e.g. Education) will also be represented and decisions will be co-ordinated from that command centre, as per Disaster Management protocol. The situation will be monitored in a similar way as large fires or the water crisis. The Province has a good history with successful management of these situations.
We will keep the following platforms updated:
- Provincial Facebook page: facebook.com/WCGHealth
- The provincial landing page for coronavirus information: Coronavirus Website
- The public hotline: 0800 029 999
- WHO contact page: https://www.who.int/
We urge members of the public to get information from these sites, and to verify any messages they receive against this information.