UPDATE 3: Travel, monitoring & surveillance, prevention, disease management


South African Health Minister, Dr Zweli Mkhize, announced earlier today that the number of confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in the country has risen to 24, with rising concerns at the spread of the virus through local interaction.

Minister Mkhize expressed concern at domestic transmission while conducting a final inspection of the Ranch Resort, in Limpopo, this afternoon, adding that like the rest of the world, government’s focus would now be on preventing the spread of the virus within the country.

The resortwill be used to quarantine the 121 South Africans that the government is evacuating from Wuhan, China, where COVID-19 is said to have originated.

As threats of the spread of COVID-19 – which was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organisation (WHO) – causes widespread panic in various parts of the world where cases have been confirmed, there are assurances made on numerous containment measures in place to curb the spread of the virus globally.

In South Africa, the week started with seven confirmed cases, rising to 17 on Thursday, 12 March. However, one of the recently confirmed cases, of a Free State man, turned out to be negative after a second test was conducted at the National Health Laboratory Services in Johannesburg.

A further eight cases were confirmed this morning, bringing the total to 24.

One of the greatest threats to efforts towards containing and managing the virus in the country and globally, is the spread of inaccurate and alarmist information.

There were reports of a closure of the Health Sciences Faculty at the University of the Witwatersrand after a student was found to have been in contact with an established COVID-19 case.

Nelson Mandela University’s Health Sciences Dean, Prof Lungile Pepeta, contacted his counterpart at Wits University on the veracity of the information.

“It seems the student was believed to have come into contact with a person who had tested positive for the coronavirus, and then attended a party at the weekend. My colleague says the contact with the established COVID-19 case took place after the party. The student has since been quarantined,” he said.

“We really appeal to people to resist the urge to spread information that may cause undue alarm, and to establish the full facts before disseminating information on an issue as serious as the virus.”

Monitoring and surveillance:


Where possible, staff and students are advised to postpone international travel for business or private until it is safer to do so. The University community is also advised to postpone conferences in and outside the institution.

If it is absolutely vital to travel, the necessary precautions should be taken.

In line with the move to monitor staff and students’ international movements in the recent past and going forward, the University has established a travel register that staff and students are required to complete when planning their travel.

Staff and students should consult the memorandum issued on the detailed steps to take with regards travelling.


Good hygiene practices remain at the core of efforts to prevent the spread of the virus. As such, the task team is working on a review of the overall cleaning regime on campus and the use of hand sanitisers at common places across the University.

Awareness posters are being distributed across the campuses, with educational material on effective hygiene practices.

Disease management:

Should a case of COVID-19 be suspected or confirmed at the University, the affected person would be isolated and given the requisite support. This could include people who have recently travelled to places identified as high-risk areas, or those who have chronic health conditions that place them at higher risk of infection.

In the highly unfortunate event that the virus starts spreading in the University, anyone with a compromised system would be advised to self-isolate.


The University’s coronavirus task team continues monitoring developments related to this outbreak. The team appeals to the entire University community not to panic and to continue accessing the dedicated webpage for more information and resources.

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