Zweli Mkhize on coronavirus: 'What are we fearing? We are ready to deal with it'

Health minister Zweli Mkhize said SA is ready to tackle the coronavirus. File photo.
Health minister Zweli Mkhize said SA is ready to tackle the coronavirus. File photo.
Image: REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo

There is no need to panic — there are highly trained nurses and doctors at hand to tackle the Covid-19, health minister Zweli Mkhize said on Sunday.

“What are we fearing? What we fear is that there is a history of coronavirus that attacked and killed many people.

“We are ready to deal with it as an emergency,” Mkhize said during a briefing at the Pietermaritzburg City Hall on Sunday afternoon.

Mkhize was accompanied by KwaZulu-Natal MEC for health Nomagugu Simelane-Zulu.

Mkhize said trained medical staff at hospitals used a “specific gown” when treating coronavirus-affected patients.

“The gown covers your head, eyes, mouth, hands, body and feet. We call this barrier nursing, it covers the entire body and the nurse can treat the patient and go home and won’t infect their children.”

Mkhize said those who tested positive for the novel coronavirus would be isolated and treated.

He said it was unlikely to infect others if one did not have the symptoms. Mkhize said once patients were treated and tests came back negative, they could go back to their daily lives.

“It is like a flu, once treated it is gone. Go back to life.”

Mkhize said there had been no confirmed cases of infected South Africans in Wuhan, China.

“Some are now pulling out and saying they do not to want to come back. We will bring back those who want to come back and leave those who want to stay, it is not a problem.

“There is no reason to worry about those who are coming back to SA. There is no risk of infection to the local community and we will make sure of that. Our health professionals are fairly competent,” he said.

On Sunday morning, the department confirmed the third coronavirus case in the country after the wife of the first man to be diagnosed with the coronavirus in SA also tested positive.

She had also travelled with him to Italy as part of a group of 10.

The couple's two children tested negative for the virus, but as part of taking extra precautions, the children would remain in self-quarantine until their parents tested negative.

Mkhize said he spoke to the husband on Sunday and indicated that he was “upbeat and jovial”.

“I also spoke to the doctor who is treating him and she confirmed that this patient is responding well and is now asymptomatic.”

Another person in the group who travelled with the couple to Italy has also contracted the virus.

One of the 10 people did not return to SA.

Mkhize said the department expected the results of the other six group members who had travelled to Italy within the next 48 hours.

In the Chinese city of Quanzhou 10 people have died after the hotel that was being used to quarantine individuals under observation for the coronavirus collapsed.

The hotel began to collapse on Saturday evening.

Emergency services managed to retrieve over 40 people from the site of collapse.  

The search for the rest of the people was still ongoing.

Meanwhile in the Eastern Cape, the provincial department of health condemned the spreading of hoax coronavirus cases.

This after a woman posed as a novel coronavirus patient at the Grey Hospital in King William’s Town on Saturday.

Department of health spokesperson Sizwe Kupelo said the woman claimed to be an employee of the 38-year-old man who was last week diagnosed as the first person in SA to have contracted the disease.

The woman refused to give staff her information.

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