SA borders stay open as government tries to identify coronavirus carriers

Health minister Zweli Mkhize addresses the media on the coronavirus on Monday.
Health minister Zweli Mkhize addresses the media on the coronavirus on Monday.
Image: Anthony Molyneaux

South Africa has not restricted the movement of people through its borders, health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize said on Monday - despite the number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the country jumping to seven.

Mkhize announced that four more cases of coronavirus have been recorded in SA, bringing to seven the number of people who have tested positive. All seven had travelled to Italy on a skiing trip.

Results of the tests of two other people who were in that group and who returned with the seven to SA would be available soon, said the minister. The tenth person did not come back to SA after the trip.

There have been calls for the country to take stronger measures to try and prevent the spread of the disease.

Addressing the media in Pretoria after an inter-ministerial committee met on Monday to discuss the epidemic, Mkhize said tests were done at all ports of entry to detect the disease.

He said regardless of which port of entry people were coming through, health officials were focussing on people who presented symptoms of the disease.

“As far as our borders are concerned, we have not restricted the movement of people ... What we have said is that we will try to detect symptoms so that people who have symptoms are the ones we focus on.”

He said the country had not yet taken any decision on whether to cancel tourism and sports events, as well as conferences.

“There is no decision on that. The ministers were discussing those issues, looking at a lot of information, and they are processing that matter. As soon as they have done consultation with the president and with the cabinet, they will make the necessary announcements at that point.”

Mkhize said the government had not issued a call for any school to be closed. He said closures could be the result of a parent worried that their child might be affected.

The government was aware of reports of panic buying of various health products, he said. 

“Hand sanitisers are not really a problem. What is critical, the basics, is just soap and water. Even if people do not find the hand sanitisers, they must not feel that they have lost out, that they are now unsafe.”

He said panic buying was not only a South African phenomenon and happened in other countries, where in some cases people are buying food in bulk in case they are put under quarantine.

“We must not be surprised. What we need to do is to keep assuring our people that the situation will not need them to go to those kinds of extents - and that we will be together as we work on these issues to try to make life easier and [more] bearable for them, so that we can get people to continue on the quarantine."


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