‘Travel bans are work­ing’

Man who dis­obeyed quar­an­tine in­struc­tion charged with at­tempted mur­der

Daily Dispatch - - Front Page - SANDISO PHALISO Ad­di­tional re­port­ing by Nom­ahlubi Jor­daan and Ni­vashni Nair

The num­ber of South Africans who had trav­elled abroad and were now in­fected with the coro­n­avirus is de­creas­ing, though lo­cal trans­mis­sions are on the rise.

This was con­firmed to the Dis­patch by Dr Lwazi Manzi, the spokesper­son for health min­is­ter Zweli Mkhize, on Wed­nes­day only hours af­ter the min­is­ter said pen­e­tra­tion of the virus was “small” in SA.

When asked what Mkhize had meant by this when he ap­peared on state tele­vi­sion, Manzi said in­fec­tion cases of those re­turn­ing from abroad were dropping.

The num­ber had de­creased since Pres­i­dent Cyril Ramaphosa de­clared a na­tional state of dis­as­ter two weeks ago and travel bans were sub­se­quently im­ple­mented.

How­ever, the num­ber of lo­cal trans­mis­sions — or peo­ple who con­tracted the virus without trav­el­ling over­seas — was es­ca­lat­ing, ac­cord­ing to Manzi.

At the time of writ­ing on Wed­nes­day, the num­ber of cit­i­zens con­firmed to have the virus was 709.

This was an in­crease of 155 cases from Tuesday’s 554.

While SA has the high­est num­ber of cases in Africa, it has not reg­is­tered any deaths.

Two peo­ple are in in­ten­sive care, how­ever.

“Right now, our cases are ris­ing very fast.

“You can’t re­ally stop a virus spread­ing by air, but what we want to do is make sure that the num­bers don’t rise so fast and so high that they com­pletely over­whelm the health sys­tem,” Manzi said.

“We want to make sure that the num­bers rise very slowly so that the health sys­tem can deal with those who have Covid19.”

She said the 21-day lock­down had been im­ple­mented largely to “deal with peo­ple who have tested pos­i­tive while in­side the coun­try”.

Manzi said most peo­ple car­ry­ing the in­fec­tion had ar­rived from high-risk coun­tries.

“What we en­vis­age is go­ing to hap­pen is that those peo­ple who trav­elled abroad are go­ing to pass the in­fec­tion to some­body here in the coun­try, some­one who never trav­elled.

“Oc­ca­sion­ally there will be spo­radic in­fec­tions, where we don’t know where that per­son picked up the in­fec­tion,” said Manzi.

She said an ex­am­ple was a South African who trav­elled to a high-risk coun­try, came back without the nec­es­sary screen­ing for the virus, met with fam­ily and friends and in­fected those around him or her.

“That is why the pres­i­dent an­nounced [two weeks ago] that all in­ter­na­tional flights have been sus­pended.

“This was to try to stop the dis­ease from be­ing spread from im­ported cases, those who trav­elled over­seas.

“Now, the lock­down is to deal with lo­cal trans­mis­sions,” she said.

Trans­port min­is­ter Fik­ile Mbalula provided some in­sight on Wed­nes­day into how the loom­ing lock­down would af­fect pub­lic trans­port in the coun­try.

He said it was en­vis­aged that minibus taxis would be al­lowed to op­er­ate for a lim­ited time dur­ing morn­ing and af­ter­noon peak hours to ferry peo­ple au­tho­rised to move around, such as es­sen­tial-ser­vices per­son­nel. “A lock­down is a lock­down... “There will be spe­cial cater­ing for pub­lic trans­port, we will deal with the de­tails later on in terms of taxis.

“We’re look­ing at al­lo­cat­ing time for the op­er­a­tion of taxis in the morn­ing peak and in the af­ter­noon.

“Dur­ing the day it will be lock­down,” he said in an in­ter­view with Ra­dio 702.

“Trains, we’re look­ing at not op­er­at­ing at all. Long dis­tance has been shut down in terms of Shosholoza Meyl ...

“We are look­ing at in­ten­si­fy­ing in the avi­a­tion sec­tor that air­lines from af­fected coun­tries should not come to SA.”

Es­sen­tial-ser­vices work­ers would be al­lowed to use pub­lic trans­port dur­ing peak hours, provided they could pro­duce proof about their work.

All em­ploy­ers would be ex­pected to gen­er­ate spe­cial per­mits for work­ers who provided a recog­nised es­sen­tial service.

The e-hail­ing in­dus­try, such as Uber and Bolt, would not be per­mit­ted to op­er­ate, along with me­tered taxis.

As an in­di­ca­tion of how se­ri­ously the govern­ment is tak­ing the lock­down, a Lady­smith sa­lon owner who tested pos­i­tive for the coro­n­avirus has been charged with at­tempted mur­der for con­tin­u­ing to work at his busi­ness and dis­re­gard­ing an in­struc­tion to self-quar­an­tine.

Na­tional po­lice spokesper­son Bri­gadier Vish Naidoo said a list of 27 peo­ple who were at the sa­lon and at a re­li­gious gath­er­ing are be­ing sought for test­ing af­ter com­ing into contact with the man, 52.

“On March 24 at about 3.30pm, Lady­smith po­lice of­fi­cers re­ceived in­for­ma­tion that a man who had al­legedly tested pos­i­tive with coro­n­avirus came in contact with other peo­ple in Lady­smith area.

“The same man trav­elled to various coun­tries.

“On his re­turn on March 18 he was tested pos­i­tive with Covid-19 and was in­structed to self-quar­an­tine for at least 14 days pend­ing the blood results.

“How­ever, the man al­legedly con­tin­ued with his busi­ness since March 21 and in do­ing so dis­re­garded the in­struc­tions by a doc­tor, thus con­tra­ven­ing reg­u­la­tions in terms of the Na­tional Dis­as­ter Act per­tain­ing to the Covid-19 virus,” Naidoo said.

The man was ar­rested.

Pic­ture: SUMAYA HISHAM/REUTERS

KEEP­ING US IN­FORMED: Health min­is­ter Dr Zweli Mkhize said the pen­e­tra­tion of the coro­n­avirus was small in SA.

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