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SA showing its mettle on coronavirus

FILE IMAGE: Minister of health Zweli Mkhize addresses the media on the coronavirus outbreak in SA on March 5 2020.
FILE IMAGE: Minister of health Zweli Mkhize addresses the media on the coronavirus outbreak in SA on March 5 2020.
Image: Anthony Molyneaux

It has been an anticipated but unwelcome arrival on our shores this coronavirus, which, despite a low mortality rate, has wreaked havoc around the globe.

News broke on Thursday that this country has been added to the growing list of nations affected by the outbreak. A KwaZulu-Natal man who had been to Italy along with 10 fellow travellers became SA's first carrier of the deadly disease, which to date has affected no less than 80,000 Chinese citizen in the epicentre, the Wuhan province of China.

People have often jocularly declared that SA doesn't deserve the internet, seeing how without failure users would make light of even the most serious of issues. True to form, since Thursday, South Africans have sought to see the funny side of a moment many, and rightfully so, have been dreading.

But we admire that the message has not been lost: that this is an outbreak ordinary people have in their hands, in a manner of speaking, to manage and conquer. The message driven home is that hygiene such as regularly washing hands and taking care where you place them, can help keep infections at more than an arm's length.

Authorities, bar a minor communication mishap, have inspired confidence. The misstep was when, despite having the minister of health as the go-to person for any COVID-19 message, the president was made to answer potential ambush questions.

Despite being at different venues, they both sounded like they were singing from the same hymn sheet. But it could have easily gone awry.

As expected, many questions are being asked of the details around how travellers from a country (Italy) known to have the virus slipped through without detection at a port of entry. This is despite the message the government has been at pains to trumpet that SA has always been ready since the news of the outbreak.

Health minister Zweli Mkhize announced yesterday that the tally of the infected has risen to three, from the same travel party, indicating that his announcement that authorities were in contact with the initial suspected carriers and are tracing potentials was not just cheap, politicking talk.

The challenge now is to contain the virus, and manage the ports of entry even better. It can be done, and together we will conquer.