The City of Cape Town has received numerous questions about its preparedness to deal with any potential cases of Coronavirus (COVID-19).
COVID-19 is part of a large family of viruses that are common in people and many different species of animals. The virus is spread mainly from person-to-person (coughing, sneezing, touching affected surfaces). An infection may present with fever, coughing and shortness of breath with at least 80% of the cases being mild in nature. Residents with underlying co-morbidities such as diabetes, heart and lung conditions are at increased risk of contracting the infection.
It is important to note that South Africa’s response to the Coronavirus outbreak is being led by the National Department of Health (NDoH), with support from the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD), World Health Organisation, Centre for Disease Control, and other partners.
The City of Cape Town is one of the partners involved in the response – under direction from the National Health Department and the Western Cape Health Department.
City Health fulfills a complementary primary health function through its network of more than 100 clinics, as well as an environmental health function.
To date, City Health has no reported cases of COVID-19 and has taken the following steps to ensure its preparedness to assist with any potential cases of COVID-19 at a local clinic:
· Training of all staff involved
· Identification of Rapid Response Teams, in association with the Metro District Health Service, to do contact tracing and collect samples
· Ensuring facilities are prepared to deal with the outbreak, if required
· Ensuring all staff members are trained to respond to any patient in the event of a suspected case
· Acquiring Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for staff
· Information posters to display in waiting rooms
The City’s Environmental Health Practitioners have also ramped up their health promotion awareness and education sessions, with a particular focus on Early Childhood Development Centres and schools.
‘We would like to reassure our residents that the City is working closely with the lead agencies involved, to ensure a coordinated and effective response, if required. We do ask that the public please take cognisance of the key prevention messages around handwashing, but also preventing the transmission of germs when coughing or sneezing if you have a cold. We’ve also seen a run on items like hand sanitiser in stores, but soap – when correctly used – is actually more effective,’ said the City’s Mayoral Committee Member for Community Services and Health, Councillor Zahid Badroodien.
The following measures are recommended by the World Health Organisation:
· Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, as this kills viruses that may be on your hands.
· Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands. Hands touch many surfaces and can pick up viruses. Once contaminated, hands can transfer the virus to your eyes, nose or mouth. From there, the virus can enter your body and make you sick.
· Make sure you and the people around you, follow good cough hygiene. This means covering your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing as small droplets that come out of your nose or mouth can carry germs. Throw the tissue in a bin immediately and wash your hands. If a tissue is not available, cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve. When someone coughs or sneezes, they spray small liquid droplets from their nose or mouth which may contain virus. By following good cough hygiene principles, you protect the people around you from cold and flu viruses.
· Avoid close contact with people who have a fever and a cough. You may inhale the liquid droplets that spray from their nose or mouth which may contain cold or flu viruses.
· Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces with soap and water. The viruses that cause colds and flu stay on surfaces such as desks, telephones, tables etc. If you cough and sneeze all over these surfaces, it becomes contaminated and if you touch those surfaces with your hands, you can transfer the virus to your eyes, nose or mouth.
Numerous resources have been made available to the public regarding COVID-19. These include:
· The NICD Hotline on 0800 029 999 operates seven days a week, 24 hours a day
Residents who present with flu-like symptoms who might have come in contact with a COVID-19 infected person are asked to contact the NICD Hotline and not to present directly to a primary health facility. City Health will, over the next few weeks embark on an education campaign in all high-risk communities to ensure that the message reaches as many people as possible.
The City has also noted an increase in the number of enquiries about the staging of events, particularly with international participation, given the extent of COVID-19 in some countries to date.
‘We take safety at events very seriously and we are working with all event organisers and the Western Cape Government to ensure the medical plans, as part of the event permitting process, take into consideration the Coronavirus. As it stands, Cape Town is open for business. We will be advised by the relevant health authorities on a case to case basis. The City does however urge all event participants and spectators to follow the guidelines provided by both national and provincial health in dealing with hygiene matters,’ said the City’s Mayoral Committee Member for Safety and Security, Alderman JP Smith.