Panic in SA over coronavirus as more schools shut down – Health minister speaks


Health minister says closures illustrate levels of anxiety among parents.

Panic over the impact of coronavirus in South Africa could lead to more schools shutting down over fears on the spread of the disease, which continue to affect more people in the country.

Yesterday saw the Grayston Preparatory School head Chè McKay sending pupils home and indefinitely closing one of Sandton’s prestigious institutions after it was discovered that a teacher was among many who came into contact with Covid-19 positive South Africans.

The group returned home from a recent skiing holiday in Italy with a 38-year-old KwaZulu-Natal man, who became the first case of a coronavirus-positive sufferer.

Fears that his children attending Cowan School in Hilton could be affected by the disease last week led to the school closing down.

Addressing a media briefing of the inter-ministerial task team responsible for addressing the advent of the disease in the country, National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) deputy director Dr Natalie Mayet said the institute – joined by Health Minister Zweli Mkhize – would soon visit Grayston to engage with the school principal and staff.

“We would like to advise the school on the testing and on protocols to be followed,” said Mayet.

Mkhize said school closures illustrated the level of anxiety among parents whose children attended the institutions.

“The department of health has a close interaction with the education department.

“Schools are closed on an ad hoc basis, without us [health] having ordered closures. It is done by anxious parents, who seem to be in the forefront,” said Mkhize.

Mkhize said more than 100 people in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng who had come into contact with the party that visited Italy were being tracked down, tested and quarantined.

Reflecting on plans to evacuate a group of South Africans from Wuhan – the epicentre of the virus – Mkhize said the mission, which involved the SA National Defence Force, was “progressing well, on course and at an advanced stage”.

“We are currently dealing with issues of a fluid nature, like costings and finding a suitable venue for the group when returning.

“The team has visited 84 sites, which include Thaba Nchu in the Free State where the returning group is to be resettled and quarantined.

“We will soon make a further announcement on the date and on who we have signed up with to carry out the service of accommodating the people,” said Mkhize.

Despite the outbreak of the virus in China, Mkhize said South Africa had not restricted travel to that country.

“People are free to travel to anywhere in China except Wuhan because we have no problem with the rest of the country.

“We do not believe that South Africans would have been allowed to come out of China if they were quarantined.

“They were not taken for quarantine because they displayed no coronavirus symptoms,” Mkhize said.

International Relations and Cooperation Minister Naledi Pandor confirmed that due to concerns over the spread of the virus, government has scaled down participation in international forums, which included the African Union.

“While arrangements for meetings in May, June and July are in place, other gatherings have been postponed due to health reasons.

– The Citizen

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