SA prepared to deal with coronavirus but resources remain a concern : Ndung’u

The coronavirus has claimed more than 600 lives thus far
Africa Health Research Institute Deputy Director, Professor Thumbi Ndung’u, says although South Africa is prepared to deal with the coronavirus, the availability of resources needed to deal with such an epidemic might pose a challenge.

The coronavirus, which is currently gripping China, has so far claimed more than 600 lives. According to Ndung’u , South Africa is lacking when it comes to resources such as clinical facilities to deal with such a virus.

“We need to strengthen our response systems in terms of our ability to diagnose the cases and in terms of clinical facilities to deal with the clinical cases and manage them medically and for infection control measures. I think that could be challenging depending on the number of cases that we get but considering that we are likely to see a few cases, if we can respond very quickly in dealing with any responsive cases that will help us a lot before it becomes a big epidemic. “

Last week, the Minister of Health Dr Zweli Mkhize assured South Africans that contingency measures are in place to deal with the epidemic.

Ndung’u says the country is doing well in responding to what is happening in China.

“The first thing we do not want to do is to panic because this is an infection that is primarily taking place in China but has not been to Africa yet and hopefully it stays like that. Government has been giving information but this is a new virus, so there is a lot that we do not know about this virus and how it is spread. But the little that we know, for example, we know that it is transmitted through human contact, we know the major symptoms, fever and coughing, we know all of that and there have been a lot of messages on how to control it.”

No cases of the virus have been confirmed in South Africa.

Coronavirus in Africa

On Thursday, Botswana’s Ministry of Health announced that the five suspected cases of coronavirus tested negative. There have also been suspected cases in Zambia, Equatorial Guinea, Angola and Sudan; however, no case has been confirmed. Ndung’u says the rest of the continent, same as South Africa, has infrastructural challenges to deal with the epidemic.

“As a continent, in general, we have poor infrastructure and this is a major concern. As a continent we may not very well be prepared because should this virus come to Africa our health systems would not be able to cope and we saw this even with Ebola, we do not have enough diagnostic facilities and we do not have clinical facilities to isolate people and make sure that they are treated and to go home only after they have either recovered or the infection has been ruled out. So that is a major concern for the continent. We need to strengthen our epidemic response mechanisms to ensure that we can handle an epidemic of this nature.”

Ndung’u has commended the way China has dealt with the epidemic.