South Africa: Ficksburg 'Ebola' Crossing Was a Simulation Exercise

14 November 2019

Reports that a woman who displayed symptoms associated with the Ebola virus crossed the Ficksburg border in the Free State have been revealed to have been a simulation exercise.

Eyewitness News earlier reported that health officials had "confirmed its first case of Ebola".

According to the report, the woman was rushed to hospital where tests "confirmed she had contracted the virus".

However, the International Health Regulations (IHR) in Lesotho said in a statement that there had been an Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) exercise simulation on November 13 between the borders gates of Ficksburg and Maputsoe.

"This was first Small Scale Field Simulation Exercise (SSFX) conducted to test the preparedness and response to the PHEIC [Public Health Emergency of International Concern]," the IHR said in a statement.

It was undertaken to test the capacities in terms of risk communication, coordination, communication, surveillance, case management, preparedness and response, it said.

"The IHR office therefore wishes to inform the public and all other stakeholders that the minister of health will release a statement to address the outcomes of the simulation exercise ... in Leribe," the IHR said.

The ebola epidemic has claimed more than 2 000 lives in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), according to information released in August - the second-deadliest on record, AFP reported.

The virus has killed around 15 000 people in a known history of 43 years.

Free State Health Department spokesperson Mondli Mvambi earlier told News24 he had not yet been informed of the 'incident', but that protocol dictates that an individual suspected to be carrying the virus would not be allowed across the South African border.

National Health Department spokesperson Popo Maja was also not able to confirm the 'incident' earlier.

The risk of introducing the Ebola virus disease (EVD), which is sowing havoc in the DRC, in South Africa remains low, according to an update by the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD), which was issued on August 1.

The NCID said this was based on the outcome of an assessment conducted using a World Health Organisation (WHO) risk assessment tool.

"Currently, no travel or trade restrictions between South Africa and the DRC are recommended. Despite the low risk, steps are being taken to improve vigilance and preparedness to respond to any possible EVD cases that may be encountered in South Africa," it added.

- Compiled by Riaan Grobler

Source: News24

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