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Infectious Diseases

Updated 14 March 2020

Coronavirus morning update: False alarm in Free State, Hajj in doubt

Your latest coronavirus news: Three new cases have been reported South Africa, but a fourth, initially reported in the Free State, has been withdrawn; and 10 000 people in the UK will "likely" have the the virus according to the government there.

WHAT'S HAPPENING IN SA

Cases update: 

Health Minister Zweli Mkhize on Thursday confirmed another three new positive cases of the coronavirus, bringing the total to 16.

Initially four cases were announced, but one, in the Free State, where a 32-year-old man was reported to have contracted the virus, in what was though to to be the first local transmission in the country.

This case was, however, withdrawn – while the patient has been unwell, the tests have proved that he did not have the virus, the minister confirmed.

READ MORE |All the confirmed cases of coronavirus in SA

Latest news:

Protea Hotels has confirmed that one of its hotels in Polokwane, The Ranch Resort, will be used as a quarantine site under the Department of Health's direction from Thursday. 

Paul Shearer, the general manager of The Ranch Resort, confirmed to News24 that "under the direction of the Department of Health, The Ranch will not be operating as a regular hotel with effect from 12th March 2020.

"The property will be used as a quarantine facility under the full direction and guidance of the local authorities."

READ MORE | Protea hotels resort in Polokwane will be used as quarantine site

United Herzlia Schools decided to close its eight campuses in Cape Town in a proactive move after a parent of a learner, who returned from abroad, confirmed he had possibly been in contact with the virus and had started displaying symptoms.

The Jewish community schools, which includes Herzlia high school, middle school, three primary schools, as well as three pre-primary schools, will be closed until the outcome of the parent's test results come back on Friday.

In a letter to parents, seen by News24, the school said it had taken the decision "to be as proactive as possible, without overreacting".

READ MORE | Herzlia closes its schools, awaits outcome of parent's Covid-19 test

Schools have been advised to prepare for possible closures to stop the spread of the coronavirus should staff or pupils be infected.

The Basic Education Department has issued a circular to all heads of department (HODs), directors, school governing bodies (SGBs) and teacher unions outlining guidelines on how schools should react to the coronavirus.

This is the first sign that the government is truly fearful of an outbreak among schools, after it previously called for calm and said there was no reason to shut down schools and universities, or warn against international travel

READ MORE | Close if you have to, govt tells school amid coronavirus pandemic

WHAT'S HAPPENING IN THE REST OF THE WORLD

Cases update:

According to latest information from Johns Hopkins University & Medicine, stats show that more than 128 000 positive cases have been confirmed worldwide, with more than 4 700 deaths.

China remains hardest-hit, but two other countries have reported more than 10 000 cases, Italy and Iran.

READ MORE | Deaths soar in Italy, US ups containment measures

Latest news:

The annual Hajj (mandatory pilgrimage) for Muslims hangs in the balance as fears about the coronavirus plague the world.

The South African Hajj and Umrah Council (Sahuc) announced on its official social media accounts that the administration of the pilgrimage would be put on hold.

"Following communiqué received from the Ministry of Hajj where they indicate that it is too early to determine if Hajj 1441H will continue or not..."

READ MORE | Muslim hajj in doubt as coronavirus fears mount

Britain on Thursday said up to 10 000 people in the UK could be infected with the novel coronavirus, as it announced new measures to slow the spread of the outbreak.

Government chief scientific adviser Patrick Vallance said there were 590 confirmed cases but it was "much more likely we've got somewhere between 5 000 and 10 000 people infected".

Britain was on a trajectory of cases "about four weeks" behind Italy and other worst-hit countries in Europe, he said. 

READ MORE | 5 000-10 000 people 'likely' have COVID-19 in UK: govt

US President Donald Trump does not need testing for coronavirus despite having met with an aide to Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro who was found afterwards to test positive, the White House said on Thursday.

"The White House is aware of public reports that a member of the Brazilian delegation... tested positive for Covid-19," Trump spokesperson Stephanie Grisham said in a statement.

Trump and Vice President Mike Pence "had almost no interactions with the individual" during Bolsonaro's trip to a Trump golf club in Florida last weekend.

READ MORE | Trump doesn't need a coronavirus test

LATEST RESEARCH

Researchers say that on average it takes around five days to develop symptoms after exposure to the new coronavirus.

The large majority of people, more than 97% of those infected,  who develop symptoms, will do so within 11.5 days, they concluded from the study.

Therefore, the 14-day quarantine period used by major health authorities across the world is appropriate, and will cover 99% of all infectious cases of the Covid-19 virus.

READ MORE | Why a 14-day quarantine period?

HEALTH TIPS (as recommended by the NICD and WHO)

• Avoid contact with people who have respiratory infections 

• Maintain social distancing – stay at least one metre away from somebody who is coughing or sneezing

• Practise frequent hand-washing, especially after direct contact with ill people or their environment

• Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth, as your hands touch many surfaces and could potentially transfer the virus

• Practise respiratory hygiene – cover your mouth with your bent elbow or tissue when you cough or sneeze. Remember to dispose the tissue immediately after use.

READ MORE: Coronavirus 101 

Image credit: Getty Images