Coronavirus: DA calls for mandatory self-quarantine period for travelers coming from ‘high risk countries’

Issued by Siviwe Gwarube MP – DA Shadow Minister of Health
12 Mar 2020 in News

Following the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) declaration of COVID-19 as a pandemic and the increase in the numbers of infected people in South Africa to 17 as of this morning, it is clear that the South African government needs to increase its measures to deal with this virus.

The Democratic Alliance (DA) calls on the Minister of Health, Dr Zweli Mkhize, to institute a mandatory self-quarantine period of 14 days for all travelers from high-risk European countries whether the person is symptomatic or not.

I will be formally writing to the Minister to table this recommendation for consideration.

It is of great concern that these new infections  are now outside the initial group of 10 travelers who visited Italy. These new cases are now people who have recently traveled to certain European countries and landed back in South Africa in the last couple of days.

What is also worrying is that the first local transmission case has been made public by the Department of Health. The details around this case are still unclear.

Self-quarantine of 14 days for travelers from high-risk European countries would be a preventative strategy to ensure that they are isolated and then tested for the virus in order to ensure that we don’t have a situation where an asymptotic traveler is missed at the initial screening procedure.

This would also ensure that the Department of Health is not left having to trace contacts of multiple travelers should they eventually present with symptoms.

More importantly, we need to ensure that we contain this virus as much as possible to those who have already contracted it through detection, isolation and treatment.

What is clear is that there are now various countries from which people come outside of China and Italy. We have been made aware that countries such as Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Dubai should now be viewed as high-risk areas. That means, it is up to the South African government to now protect our citizens by instituting a mandatory self-quarantine period for anyone who comes from these parts of the world.

South Africa cannot afford a full outbreak of the Coronavirus within the country due to many factors which will complicate the containment process. While there are 10 hospitals which have been identified for isolation and treatment of patients, a full outbreak will certainly overwhelm those facilities.

Our strategy should be to contain this virus as much as possible in order to ensure that those who have been infected are treated as soon as possible.

The time has come for stricter measures of screening at ports of entry and mandatory self- quarantine period. If 7 people can have contact with close to 100 people, the bigger the number, the bigger the risk.

The DA remains in support of the South African government in dealing with this COVID-19 virus. That is why we will constantly bring to the table strategies and recommendations that will seek to protect the people of South Africa at all costs to the Minister of Health and his team.

While we must encourage people to remain calm, we must not be blinded to the constant global shifts of this virus. We must ensure that the government continues to be as responsive as they have been. We can ill-afford to act too late.