Parliament, Friday, 6 March 2019 – The Portfolio Committee on Health is satisfied by the level of preparedness of the Department of Health, the sophistication of medical equipment, as well as the professionalism and competency of port health staff in carrying out their responsibilities. It must be made clear that South Africa follows strict guidelines established by the World Health Organisation in screening travellers.

The committee has just concluded a useful monitoring exercise of the Port Health Facility at the OR Tambo International Airport to assess the preparedness of the authorities to screen and detect cases of COVID-19.

Chairperson Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo said: “We are reassured of the ability of the Department of Health and the Port Health Services to carry out active surveillance, early detection, isolation and case management, contact tracing and prevention of onward spread of COVID-19 infections. It must be made clear that global research into the virus is ongoing to enable authorities to understand and possibly find a vaccine for the virus.”

“Furthermore, more research will ensure conclusiveness on the incubation period of the virus. Research on the incubation period might help us explain the first case of the virus in South Africa and on how the patient passed through the screening process.”

The committee was reassured of the competency of the National Institute for Communicable Diseases, which has served as an essential resource in responding to threats posed by COVID-19 to ensure that South Africa prevents the spread of the virus.

The committee urges the South African government through the Department of Health to heighten collaborative efforts with the World Health Organisation (WHO) and other countries in efforts to rapidly find a vaccine. The committee is appreciative that the WHO was also present during the walkabout, as a support mechanism for the Department of Health.

During the urgent debate on the coronavirus in Parliament yesterday, various Members of Parliament raised the need to visit various ports of entry, including land- and sea-based ports, to assess the roll-out of precautionary screening and testing at those ports. The committee is considering the suggestion and will endeavour to undertake those visits to ensure that the necessary precautions are made at all ports of entry.

The committee urges all South Africans to remain calm and place their trust in the healthcare authorities’ ability to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 in the country. Furthermore, the committee calls on all those on our borders to diligently follow the basic principles to reduce the general risk of transmission of acute respiratory infections, which include the following:

  • frequent hand-washing, especially after direct contact with ill people or their environment
  • when sneezing or coughing, it is better to cover your nose and mouth with a tissue or arm, and not your hands

The committee also calls for an extensive communication strategy to inform and educate people of preventative measures they can take to minimise the risk of infection, especially those that have been classified as high risk.

The committee will continuously engage the Department of Health to assess the evolving situation to support initiatives to prevent the onward spread of the virus in South Africa.


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