Basic Information

Q: What is 2019 Novel Coronavirus?

A: The 2019 Novel Coronavirus, or 2019-nCoV, is a new respiratory virus first identified in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China.

Q: What is a novel coronavirus? 

A: A novel coronavirus (nCoV) is a new coronavirus that has not been previously identified. The 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV), is not that same as the coronavirus that commonly circulates among humans and cause mild illness, like the common cold.

Q: What are the signs of Novel Coronavirus?

Common signs of infection include respiratory symptoms, fever, and cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. In more severe cases, infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death (WHO).

Q: What is the source of 2019-nCoV?

A:  Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses, some causing illness in people and others that circulate among animals, including camels, cats and bats. Analysis of the genetic tree of this virus is ongoing to know the specific source of the virus.

Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), another coronavirus that emerged and infected people, came from civet cats, while Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), another coronavirus also infected people, came from camels.

Q: How does the virus spread?

A: Coronaviruses are generally thought to be spread most often by respiratory droplets that are spread through sneezing and coughing.

However, the virus has been found from stool for the first time from a patient who only presented with diarrhoea and no other symptoms. This has raised the possibility of feaco-oral transmission (the virus being transmitted through human stool). The best way to prevent any infection that can be transmitted through stool is regular handwashing particularly for breast or bottle feeding mothers.

Q: When should you be tested for 2019-nCoV?

A: If you develop a fever1 and symptoms of respiratory illness, such as cough or shortness of breath, within 14 days after travel from China, you should call ahead to a healthcare professional and mention your recent travel or close contact.


Q: How can I protect myself from getting the virus?

A: By not having close contact with a person confirmed to have, or being evaluated for, 2019-nCoV infection.

Q: How can I prevent the virus from spreading to others?

  • Covering the nose and mouth with a tissue or elbow when coughing or sneezing
  • By wearing a medical mask if you suspect that you may have the virus or if you have been diagnosed as having the virus
  • By washing your hands thoroughly with alcohol-based hand rub (ABHR) or with soap and water
  • By practicing high standards of hygiene, especially when preparing food.
  • Not eating undercooked or raw meat
  • Educating yourself and your family about the early signs of symptoms and basic precautions to be used

South African Government Stance

Q: What is the South African Government doing about 2019-nCoV?

A: The country’s Health department has assured all South Africans that that measures are in place to detect, manage and contain any cases of Novel Coronavirus should it come to our shores.

So far, there are not suspected cases reported in South Africa.

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 and Cape Town International Airports are the only Ports of entry with direct flights from Asia.

The Department of Health has identified and designated specific hospitals in all provinces for the treatment of the virus should the cases be reported. They are:

Province Name of Hospital
Western Cape –       Tygerberg Hospital
Gauteng –       Charlotte Maxeke Academic Hospital

–       Steve Biko Academic Hospital

–       Tembisa Hospital

KwaZulu-Natal –       Grey’s Hospital (Pietermaritzburg)
Limpopo –       Polokwane Hospital
Mpumalanga –       Rob Ferreira in Mbombela (Nelspruit)
Free State –       Pelonomi Academic Hospital (Bloemfontein)
North West –       Klerksdorp Hospital
Northern Cape –       Kimberley Hospital
Eastern Cape –       Livingstone Hospital (Nelson Mandela Bay)


Q: Has anyone in South Africa gotten infected?

A: At this stage there has not been any reported cases of infection in South Africa.

Q: Am I at risk for novel coronavirus from a package or products shipping from China?

Coronaviruses are generally thought to be spread most often by respiratory droplets. Currently there is no evidence to support transmission of 2019-nCoV associated with imported goods.

Information will be provided as it becomes available.


Q: Is it safe to travel to China or other countries where 2019-nCoV cases have occurred?

A: The situation is evolving. In the meantime, the South African Department of Health’s advice is that that non-essential travel to China should be delayed until the situation changes.

Q: What if I recently travelled to China and got sick?

A: If you were in China and feel sick with fever, cough, or difficulty breathing, within 14 days after you left, you should:

  • Seek medical care right away. Before you go to a doctor’s office or emergency room, call ahead and tell them about your recent travel and your symptoms.
  • Avoid contact with others.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when coughing or sneezing.
  • Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds to avoid spreading the virus to others. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol, if soap and water are not available.
  • Not travel while sick

Q: What is SAMWUMED doing about the outbreak?

A: Through our Managed Care partner we are engaging with providers and each of the hospital groups to establish their state of readiness as well as processes and reporting in place in the event of identifying any 2019-nCoV infection cases.

Although the risk to our members appears to be low at this stage, we will continue to monitor the situation around 2019-nCoV and will share any pertinent information that may affect our members’ health.


Sources of Information:

Centre for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) –

National Department of Health