Thank you very much, hon Chairperson of the NCOP, hon Amos Masondo and our Deputy Chair of the NCOP, hon Sylvia Lucas, the hon Speaker of the Gauteng Provincial Legislature, hon Mekgwe and all hon Members of the NCOP. Let me take this opportunity to thank you for inviting the Ministry of Health to come and share with you some ideas and information about the major challenge, which is not only facing us as South Africans but also facing the entire globe.
Here, hon Chair, we indeed talking about the outbreak of the coronavirus, also called COVID-19 which started just as an outbreak in Wuhan City in the province of Hubei in China,
developed into what now the World Health Organisation has defined as a pandemic. This started at the end of December 2019, but the actual pathogen this COVID-19 was isolated and confirmed by the Chinese medical specialists and the WHO on 7 January 2020. So, it is quite a new organism, you know which has taken the world by storm indeed.
Now this is a new strain of virus that causes in most cases mild upper respiratory tract infection and in some cases develop into a lower respiratory tract infection which can also lead to a very serious pneumonia. It is a virus which is derived from animals. It is thought to have originated from bats with, which, as I have already mentioned starts usually with a mild cold, cold-like, flu-like symptoms including high fever, dry cough, tiredness and in most cases it comes out with 80% of the cases just ends as a mild flu- like syndrome. But in about 15 to 20% of people it can then develop into a more serious form of a lower respiratory tract infection leading to pneumonia and also what is, in medical terms called fibrosis of the lungs, which means over and above leading to inflammation of the lungs, it also
causes the soft tissue of the lungs to be hardened, and therefore leads to difficulty in breathing.
And in 5% of people where it become serious it requires ventilation because of, as I have mentioned by causing fibrosis in the lungs makes it difficult to breathe, so your body is not able to retain enough oxygen. So, when it comes to that situation then you require ventilation for a period until the lungs recover, which is the reason why, as you might have followed part of the discussion including just, so yesterday where, in the US President Trump was talking about pumping a lot of money into production of ventilators because of that kind of complication. And in the, on average about three to 3.5% of cases it leads to deaths.
In order to detect the COVID-19 samples are taken from the throat, from the back of the throat, from the pharynx through a swab and send to a laboratory for testing. The test will only be positive if the person has an active disease. However, the test does not identify persons who are incubating the virus. Now maybe at a later stage one would
also just come back to this fact but it is an important fact because what it says is that, I know a number of people through the media have been raising questions to say if the Health Department and Government generally is saying that we are doing screening at the ports of entry including at the airport, how come almost 99% thus far of the people who have ended up being positive, 99% of them are people who had travelled, but how come they were not picked up at the airport. That is because you have an incubation period which runs between two and 14 days, and in that period if a person is in incubation, in other words having none of the symptoms which I have mentioned here, high fever, dry cough, tiredness and sneezing, if none of those has already manifested, when you do the, even if you are to do the laboratory test you would not be able to pick up the virus, and one of the most prominent of those symptoms is high fever. So, that is why we use those scanners because if you then find somebody with a high fever the likelihood, if they have got the virus, if you do that swab and take to the laboratory you will, you have a possibility of then finding the virus.
The virus is spread through two methods, breathing and coughing, sneezing, the droplets from, as you cough and sneeze there is droplets that come out from your cough, and if those droplets come across another person within one meter, one and a half meters' distance then that person can inhale those and get infected. The other way is if those droplets lands on a surface and while they are still, the virus is still active, if somebody then touches that surface and then after touching that surface with the virus still active, touches the mouth, the nose or the eyes, then the virus is transmitted that way. So, the best way to prevent this [these] droplets is to keep a safe distance as we have mentioned, a meter to one and a half meter and avoid also mass gatherings. The best way to prevent direct contact of the virus is to avoid touching your mouth, nose, eyes and to wash the hands frequently because as we, you know with soap and water and, or also using an alcohol-based sanitiser which will be able to kill the virus. There is also a sanitiser which will be able to kill the virus, also cleaning the surfaces where people touch regularly so that
when somebody else touches if they have had that virus it does not transmit to the next individual.
All in all, individuals are encouraged to keep away from mass gatherings and those who are in hospital will have to make sure that they are covered with masks and gloves to make sure that they do not transmit the virus.
As I have mentioned this was isolated on 7 January after the outbreak in China. Now where are we currently? At the current moment, as of today, the updated statistics through the WHO indicate that 219000 people have been infected worldwide as of early this morning.
Now, out of that if we look at the breakdown, 85 000 of the people out of the 219 have already recovered; 124 000 is still in active stage; that is globally, 124 000 is still in active stage of the virus, 85 000 have already recovered.
There has already been just under 9 000 deaths throughout
the world. Three point something in China and then the rest is distributed all over the world. Now, in terms of where there has been an outcome, either recovery or death when you look at the statistics, out of 94700 you have had 91% recovery and the death rate has been 9% out of where there has been an outcome.
For those who are still in active phase, 118000 are in mild form of the disease and 7000 are in a serious form of the disease.
In terms of just a brief breakdown, hon members, currently in terms of totals, the total in China as of early this morning was 81000; the new infections in China have been dropping drastically generally below 40, below 30, sometimes even around 20. As of early this morning the new infections in China, as a whole, were only 34.
In terms of Italy, the total infections currently standing just over 35700; in Iran 17000; in Spain 14000; in Germany 12300; USA 9400; in France 9100 and you know those are the
top countries in terms of the infections.
In the African continent the infection rate is still fairly low comparatively compared to what it is in other parts of the world especially in your Asia, China, South Korea, Europe and also if you look at Australia and those areas.
Africa and to some extent South America the figures are still comparatively low. Egypt is leading in African continent; it is just below 200 in Egypt if they have not passed by this morning. I have not checked the update.
As we know that in South Africa the last report, we are still waiting adjustment as of yesterday we were sitting at 116.
I have already mentioned that the infection rate in China has been declining, it has been standing- total figures have been just around 80 000 for almost a week now with daily new infections around 20, 30 per day whereas in Europe on average daily basis if you look at Italy you will
find on a daily basis over a thousand, 2 000, 3 000.
In Spain as well the same thing. Germany also- all the European countries. The UK started slow as well. The basic characteristic of the virus is that it comes slowly when it starts and then it explodes exponentially.
The WHO is monitoring the outbreak throughout the world on a daily basis and as I have already mentioned that on 11 March the WHO declared the outbreak as a pandemic and already having been declared as a world disaster.
In view of the declaration of the pandemic, our national cabinet on 15 March last Sunday took a number of decisions, these decisions as we know, hon Members, were communicated by the President having declared the outbreak as a national state of disaster in imposing travel restrictions as of 18 March, yesterday, from high risk countries such as Italy, Iran, China, South Korea, Spain, UK and USA and also closing some of our land ports, ports of entry; two sea ports of entry and also prohibiting gatherings of more than
That announcement and declaration by the President also emphasised that all citizens, all of us should change our behaviour in terms of regular hand washing, the things which I have mentioned, avoiding touching your eyes, nose and also in terms of handshakes.
I am sure now we are getting familiar with the elbow greeting. That is what the President has already advised all of us to do.
Now, in our own country we have also not been spared as I mentioned that our rate has also been monitored and it has been rising. Our first case as honourable members would remember on 27 February from a group of 10 who had travelled to Italy was detected in the KZN Province.
Since then I have already mentioned the number we have been monitoring on a daily basis, it is also worrying because almost every day, in the beginning, in the first few days
it was all confined to the 10 travellers to Italy, but over the last 10 days or so the numbers have been rising and it has been largely people who had travelled mainly to Europe but also we have been picking up from the US as well.
Currently, in terms of the numbers in our country; breakdown per province, we have a highest number of infections in the Gauteng Province as of yesterday standing at 61; Western Cape at 31; Kwazulu-Natal 19. Maybe let me not go into the total figures.
Hon members, the message is very clear as pronounced by the President that we have responsibility as individuals but also, we have responsibility as communities. As individuals to make sure basic hygiene and also in our families and whatever institutions we lead but also as organisations in terms of making sure that we avoid the things which have been said largely in terms of gatherings. [Interjections] Okay, Chair.
Let me just conclude, hon Chairperson, by thanking the
leadership of various communities in the country. We are very grateful that through the initiative of the President all political parties have supported the initiatives of government, civil society generally, also religious organisations, which the President is meeting as we meeting here today to galvanise them also to support the initiatives which the government have announced.
We call on all of us as public representatives wherever we will be during this recess to make sure that we spread the message and galvanise our communities to fall in line with these announcements by the President. Thank you very much, hon Chair.