The Embassy of China in Pretoria on Friday urged South Africans to avoid travelling to China’s central city of Wuhan, the epicenter of the current coronavirus epidemic which has so far killed at least 26 people. 

“Friends from South Africa are requested not to go to Wuhan for the time being, and South African friends in Wuhan now should not leave the city or return to SA at this moment,” the diplomatic mission said in a statement to media. 

The embassy said there are designated and back-up hospitals for the treatment of the pneumonia caused by the new coronavirus in Wuhan and other places across China, and an effective response program has been formulated. 

“If there is a suspected illness, the person can contact the local medical institution as soon as possible to seek medical treatment and receive treatment in time.”

RONGSHUI, Jan. 27, 2020 (Xinhua) — A medical worker demonstrates how to correctly use masks for prevention in Wuying, a village of Miao ethnic group on the border of south China’s Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region and southwest China’s Guizhou Province, Jan. 26, 2019. A medical aid team on the prevention and control of the novel coronavirus outbreak came to Wuying village. All group activities scheduled for the Spring Festival are cancelled according to the local authority. (Xinhua/Huang Xiaoban

The diplomatic mission said a large number of South African students who are studying in China, especially in Wuhan, are deeply worried about the epidemic.

“We fully understand it and hope that friends from South Africa and other countries could believe in the Chinese government and people who will make every effort to ensure the health and safety of each and every foreigner in China, especially the international students.”  

The embassy said it would keep South Africans informed on the massive fight launched by Beijing, together with international partners, to manage and fend off the dangerous coronavirus. 

“To win the battle against this unexpected epidemic requires the concerted efforts of the international community. We are ready to share information on epidemic detection, investigation and risk assessment with other countries in a timely manner, and unite international medical forces to carry out vaccine research and development,” the embassy said. 

“We are also committed to strengthening joint prevention and control cooperation with African countries including South Africa, so as to strictly prevent epidemic import, and jointly maintain global and African public health security.” 

The diplomatic mission also urged individuals to check the official website of the National Health Commission of the People’s Republic of China for daily updates on the epidemic. 

Medical workers in protective gear talk with a woman suspected of being ill with a coronavirus at a community health station in Wuhan in central China’s Hubei Province. Picture: Chinatopix via AP

The epidemic of new coronavirus infections originated from and concentrated in Wuhan City of Hubei Province, China. The embassy said because of the infectious nature of the epidemic, the Wuhan Municipal Government “has adopted the strictest entry and exit control including temporarily closing public transportation to and from Wuhan’. 

On Thursday, South Africa’s ministry of health said it had measures in place to detect, manage and contain any cases of coronavirus should it come to the country’s shores.  

Assuring South Africans that there was nothing to fear, it said that no cases had been reported so far.

“Port health professionals routinely conducts temperature screening for all international travellers. However, due to the current risk of importation of inadvertent cases of 2019-nCoV from Wuhan City, China, port health authorities have enhanced surveillance of all travellers from Asia, especially China. 

“Fortunately, OR Tambo International Airport is the only port of entry for all flights from Asia,” the ministry said.

It said that the provinces had activated outbreak response teams and were on high alert to detect and manage inadvertent cases that may arrive in the country. 

The ministry said that there were no restrictions on travel to China, adding that the World Health Organisation had also not recommended any restriction on travel or trade. 

-ANA; editing by Devereaux Morkel