Covid-19: it’s get­ting worse

Leaked email re­vealed BMW staffer tested pos­i­tive on re­turn to SA from over­seas trip

Pretoria News - - FRONT PAGE - STAFF RE­PORTERS

BMW Group South Africa, which has a large man­u­fac­tur­ing plant in Rosslyn, yes­ter­day con­firmed that an em­ployee tested pos­i­tive for coro­n­avirus (Covid19).

In a leaked email cir­cu­lated to staff, man­age­ment said the worker had re­turned from an over­seas trip on Sunday and im­me­di­ately went for treat­ment.

BMW Group South Africa spokesper­son Hai­ley Phi­lan­der said: “The em­ployee did not come to work and has been un­der treat­ment since Mon­day.”

Phi­lan­der would, how­ever, not dis­close whether it was an em­ployee from the BMW Rosslyn plant.

“I can­not dis­close such in­for­ma­tion at this mo­ment. We need to re­spect the pri­vacy of the pa­tient and the fam­ily.”

The email, dated March 11, said: “We can con­firm that a BMW South Africa col­league has been di­ag­nosed with the coro­n­avirus (Covid-19) af­ter trav­el­ling over­seas… The col­league has not been in any of our of­fices since re­turn­ing to South Africa. In view of the de­vel­op­ments, BMW South Africa is ini­ti­at­ing fur­ther mea­sures to pro­tect its em­ployee. Any pos­si­ble af­fected ar­eas will be closed off and dis­in­fected.”

BMW said it had iden­ti­fied those who pos­si­bly were in di­rect or in­di­rect con­tact with the af­fected col­league and re­quested them to un­dergo the 14-day self-quar­an­tine or mon­i­tor­ing.

Mean­while, a spe­cial Cab­i­net meet­ing has been planned in Tsh­wane on Sunday to dis­cuss matters re­lated to the coro­n­avirus pan­demic, in­clud­ing travel bans, pub­lic leisure, faith-based or sport­ing events.

Min­is­ter in the Pres­i­dency Jack­son Mthembu said it was normal for Cab­i­net meet­ings to have a par­tic­u­lar agenda. He said the Cab­i­net had at its meet­ing on Wed­nes­day not ex­pressed views on travel bans. “We can as­sure you that af­ter this meet­ing on Sunday, we will be able to an­swer some of the ques­tions we are not able to an­swer here.”

Mthembu urged the pub­lic not to visit the site of quar­an­tine of the 122 South Africans repatriate­d from the epi­cen­tre of the coro­n­avirus in China.

They are ex­pected in the coun­try today af­ter the repa­tri­a­tion team and SAA crew left for China on Tues­day.

Le­sotho is also con­sid­er­ing seal­ing its bor­ders in a bid to keep the virus out of its coun­try.

THE World Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion (WHO) has fi­nally de­clared the coro­n­avirus out­break a pan­demic af­ter blam­ing “alarm­ing lev­els of in­ac­tion” by gov­ern­ments across the planet for fu­elling the cri­sis.

As the num­ber of con­firmed cases of the bug world­wide sur­passed 112 000 – and the death toll neared 4 500 – the WHO said it was “deeply con­cerned by the alarm­ing lev­els of spread and sever­ity”.

Di­rec­tor-gen­eral Dr Te­dros Ad­hanom Ghe­breye­sus also blasted gov­ern­ments for ig­nor­ing re­peated WHO pleas to take ur­gent and ag­gres­sive ac­tion, with cases of the deadly ill­ness out­side of China hav­ing risen 13-fold in the space of a fort­night be­cause of es­ca­lat­ing crises in Italy, Iran, Spain, Ger­many and France.

The WHO said: “Pan­demic is not a word to use lightly or care­lessly. It is a word that, if mis­used, can cause un­rea­son­able fear, or un­jus­ti­fied ac­cep­tance that the fight is over, lead­ing to un­nec­es­sary suf­fer­ing and death.”

In a des­per­ate call for gov­ern­ments to band to­gether and tackle the coro­n­avirus, Ad­hanom said: “We’re in this to­gether, to do the right things with calm and pro­tect the cit­i­zens of the world. It’s doable.”

The last pan­demic – de­fined as the un­con­trolled world­wide spread of a new dis­ease – to be of­fi­cially de­clared was the swine flu out­break in 2009, which sci­en­tists es­ti­mate killed hun­dreds of thou­sands of peo­ple.

More than 125 000 peo­ple glob­ally have al­ready been in­fected with the coro­n­avirus, which can cause pneu­mo­nia but causes mild flu-like symp­toms for 98% of pa­tients.

Cases slowed dra­mat­i­cally in China, where the virus emerged at the end of De­cem­ber. How­ever, the cri­sis has now en­veloped Europe, where the num­ber of cases rises by the day.

Nearly 60 mil­lion Ital­ians – whose coun­try is the worst-hit by the in­fec­tion af­ter China – are sub­ject to an of­fi­cial cur­few im­posed on them by the govern­ment.

Out­breaks are also wors­en­ing in Spain, France, Ger­many and the UK where the health min­is­ter is one of its vic­tims.

In South Africa, as those repatriate­d from Wuhan, China, are due back today, the govern­ment has called on its cit­i­zens not to risk travel to coun­tries where there has been a com­mu­nal out­break.

| LALINKA MAHOTE African News Agency (ANA)

MANY are wear­ing face masks to help pro­tect them­selves. The num­ber of re­ported cases in the coun­try now stands at 16.

| SAL­VA­TORE DI NOLF EPA-EFE

DR TE­DROS Ad­hanom Ghe­breye­sus, di­rec­tor-gen­eral of the WHO, in­forms the me­dia about the last up­dates re­gard­ing Covid-19 dur­ing a press con­fer­ence at the WHO head­quar­ters in Geneva, Switzer­land.

MAS­SIMO PINCA REUTERS | AN­DREAS GE­BERT AND

A WOMAN wears a pro­tec­tive face mask in Turin, Italy, as peo­ple queue at a su­per­mar­ket to stock up af­ter the govern­ment put the whole coun­try on lockdown as new cases surge. A medic checks the tem­per­a­ture of a driver com­ing from Italy.

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