Picture: GALLO IMAGES/AFP/BERND THISSEN
Picture: GALLO IMAGES/AFP/BERND THISSEN

The government was commended by Chinese consul-general in Cape Town Lin Jing on Tuesday for having come up with a “very effective, efficient and appropriate” strategy to deal with the risks of a coronavirus outbreak. 

Jing briefed MPs of the tourism and health committees on the spread of the coronavirus (Covid-19) in China and the progress made in containing it. The co-operation between Chinese representatives in the country and the government had been very successful in keeping the coronavirus out of Africa, he said.

Jing noted that checks were installed for overseas arrivals at SA airports and 11 hospitals designated to receive suspected cases. He advised South Africans to adopt a wait-and-see approach before visiting China, delaying their visit until the situation stabilises.

Jing estimated 3,000 SA citizens are in China of whom 500 in Wuhan, the epicentre of the epidemic.

Nine Middle Eastern countries have now reported cases of the virus and with Austria and Croatia for the first time reporting people falling ill, there are growing fears of a global pandemic. Iran deputy health minister Iraj Harirchi, who has been leading his country’s response to the outbreak, has tested positive for the virus.

According to the latest statistics of the World Health Organisation there are 79,331 confirmed cases of Covid-19 worldwide with 77,262 of these in China, including 2,595 deaths. Outside China there are 2,069 confirmed cases in 29 countries and 23 deaths.

South Korea, Italy, Japan, Singapore, Iran, US and Thailand have reported a large number of cases.

Jing said the latest confirmed figure for affected people in China was 77,780 of whom 27,377 have been cured and discharged from hospitals. There were 2,824 additional suspected cases while the number of deaths has risen to 2,666.

Outside Hubei province and Wuhan city, the major battlefield against the virus, there were nine newly confirmed cases but in 24 provinces, municipal cities and regions no newly confirmed cases were recorded, including Beijing and Shanghai, Jing said.

“Overall the epidemic situation has improved a lot throughout the whole country,” he said. “A lot of provinces, municipal cities and regions have started to downgrade the class of response to emergencies. Up to now eight provinces have downgraded the class of response from first class to either second or third class. This adjustment is significant. I think that in a few days more provinces, autonomous regions and municipal cities are going to downgrade the class of their response to emergencies.”

This downgrade will enable life to return to normal and economic production to get under way. “Remarkable progress has been made in the prevention and control of the epidemic and the situation of the epidemic has shown a very positive trend,” Jing said.

He stressed, though, that the turning point of the crisis has not yet arrived, especially as an estimated 220-million people will be returning to work after the spring festival at the end of February with more than 100-million more going back to work after March and 100-milion students returning to school. This will make prevention and control more difficult

“This grand domestic migration has dramatically increased the risks of spreading the virus. This is a tremendous challenge.”

The epidemic has had a significant effect on the Chinese and global economy, Jing said. The Chinese government has implemented a number of supportive monetary, financial and taxation measures to help the economy deal with its effects.

ensorl@businesslive.co.za