Parliament has agreed to hold a “debate of national importance” on South Africa’s state of readiness in case of a coronavirus outbreak in the country.
The Democratic Alliance (DA) said on Thursday that Parliament’s programming committee has scheduled the debate for 5 March, 2020.
In its latest update on Wednesday, the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) said South Africa has not had a case of coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, so far.
121 people tested, all negative
It added, “The institute has tested a total of 121 people for SARS-CoV-2 [severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2] of whom 77 met the case definition for persons under investigation (PUI). As of 26 February, all results have come out negative.”
The NICD said it will hold an information session for businesses, corporations and occupational health practitioners on 3 March, 2020.
“The information sharing session will ensure alignment and coordination pertaining to managing a possible case of COVID-19 in South Africa,” it said.
Coronavirus has claimed more than 2,800 lives around the world since it broke out in China in December 2019. There have been more than 82,000 reported cases.
DA welcomes debate
DA’s shadow health minister, Siviwe Gwarube, welcomed Parliament’s decision to hold the debate.
She said, “A debate of national importance will afford the Minister of Health, Dr Zweli Mkhize, an opportunity to address Parliament and the nation on the readiness of the Department of Health to deal with this global pandemic.
“Additionally, it is crucial that the executive tables an inter-ministerial strategy on this issue.”
She urged Mkhize to update South Africans on the readiness of quarantine facilities and the status of screening protocols at ports of entry countrywide.
“South Africa is a global country and a big player on the world stage. Our government must be responsive to such issues and Parliament is the appropriate platform for the Minister and other members of the executive to showcase their plans,” Gwaribe said.
At a media briefing in late January, Mkhize said an emergency operations centre had been set up.
He added, “This means we have dedicated staff working exclusively on the coronavirus, monitoring and responding to all reports that they will proactively detect and follow up.”