The South Africans repatriated from Wuhan in China are preparing to vacate The Ranch Resort in Limpopo after all testing negative for the coronavirus after being quarantined, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said on Saturday.
National government a fortnight ago repatriated 112 citizens from the Chinese city, where the coronavirus outbreak began, and placed them in quarantine at the resort about 25km outside Polokwane.
“We had assured all South Africans that these citizens were all negative, they did not present any symptoms and therefore did not pose any risk of infection. However, we took extra precautions and quarantined them for a 14-day period,” Mkhize said.
“On arrival medical screening and Covid-19 tests were conducted. They all came out negative. We are very pleased to report to South Africans that these citizens conducted their second test in preparation for their exit. These have all come out negative.”
The number of confirmed coronavirus cases on Saturday increased to 1187 from Friday’s 1170.
Mkhize, however, said that these numbers – which show only 17 new cases – should not be seen as a decrease in the number of infections but was merely a reflection of positive results that were received, verified and ready for reporting on Saturday.
Meanwhile, SA’s flu vaccines are understocked, Mkhize said.
“These are pre-ordered a year in advance. At the time the country placed its orders, we had not anticipated this Covid-19 pandemic,” he explained.
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“As government, we have engaged with the pharmaceutical industry and it became clear that the distribution of this vaccine has to be rationalised and prioritised. We have therefore taken a decision that health workers in the country will be given priority in receiving the flu vaccine.
“This is precipitated by the fact that the country cannot afford to have them sick especially as the flu season approaches. This is one of the major lessons that we have learnt from countries that have experienced the Covid-19 pandemic.”
The minister said he was pleased that SA was participating in the Public Health Emergency Solidarity Trial that has been initiated by the World Health Organisation to conduct a clinical trial to find effective treatment for Covid-19.
“The World Health Organisation has convened an independent group of experts to review evidence from laboratory, animal and clinical studies to prioritize treatments for inclusion in the trial,” he said.
This group had identified four treatment options for inclusion in the trial.
“All participating countries will adhere to the same methodology in order to facilitate the worldwide comparison of unproven treatments. Other countries that have already confirmed their participation in this trial are Argentina, Bahrain, Canada, France, Iran, Norway, Spain, Switzerland and Thailand,” he said.
“The South African Solidarity research team is led by Professors Helen Rees and Jeremy Nel, working 30 senior academics, researchers and clinicians from eight medical schools in the country. They will be undertaking the study in fourteen leading hospitals across the country.”