There have been no cases of the novel coronavirus known as "2019-nCoV" identified in South Africa, the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) said on Thursday.
"As of 23 January, there have been no cases of the 2019-nCoV in South Africa or on the African continent," the NICD said in a statement.
However, an emergency operations centre is in alert mode, and could be activated, should the need arise.
This comes after Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported that China on Thursday banned trains and planes from leaving Wuhan City in China, which is at the centre of the virus outbreak.This was to contain the contagious disease that has reportedly claimed 17 lives, infected hundreds and spread to other countries, according to AFP.
The NICD said together with the national department of health it has developed and distributed clinical guidelines and case definitions for doctors and nurses in both the public and private sectors to better detect, identify and respond to a possible 2019-nCoV case in South Africa.This includes guidance on what samples to collect to confirm the diagnosis, as well as how to best manage the case clinically and to prevent a spread to others while the diagnosis is being made."Furthermore, South Africa has in place routine fever screening at ports of entry, guidance documents, including the case definitions and what to do should a suspected case be identified have been distributed to staff at the ports," the NICD said.
The Western Cape government's new head of department for health Dr Keith Cloete confirmed this.
"There is a daily update," said Cloete at a briefing in Cape Town to introduce him to the media.
"Tygerberg Hospital is geared to be able to go in a space of two hours if you need to isolate a case," he said by way of example.
This assistance applies to healthcare workers too.
At Thursday's briefing Cloete said the Western Cape had learnt hard lessons from a measles outbreak in 2008 and 2009 when a large number of children had not been immunised. It had significantly reduced its response time to outbreaks of viruses.
He is confident that other global virus outbreaks, such as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome and an outbreak of Diphtheria in the Helderberg, had further improved response times.
The department is connected to the NICD's surveillance system, as well as global surveillance systems to monitor it.
The NICD said in an update the World Health Organisation's China country office reported a cluster of pneumonia cases of unknown origin in Wuhan City in the Hubei province of China on December 31, 2019.
The cause was confirmed as a novel coronavirus.
As of January 22, 571 cases have been confirmed and 17 deaths have been reported in Wuhan City.
There were seven exported cases of which four were in Thailand, one in Japan, one in South Korea and one in the United States.
The majority of the cases from Wuhan were epidemiologically linked to a seafood, poultry and live wildlife market - the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market - in the Jianghan District in Hubei province.
Cases from outside Wuhan had links in Wuhan, contact with a sick person in Wuhan, had worked or visited a market in Wuhan.
Most symptoms were mild to moderate.
Health24 explained that the virus appears to be an entirely new strain of coronavirus (novel coronavirus or 2019-nCoV).
The symptoms are coughing, breathing difficulties, wheezing and shortness of breath, pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome and kidney failure.