The South African Department of Health continues to monitor the rapidly embryonic developments surrounding the Coronavirus outbreak closely. The World Health Organisation (WHO) provides us with daily situational updates from around the world.
Since the first reported case of Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China, on 31 December 2019, the world had anticipated a pandemic. In January 2020, the WHO declared the deadly disease a public health emergency of international concern.
Regrettably, the first South African case of the Coronavirus was confirmed on 5 March. The Scheme is on high alert and would like our stakeholders to be cognisant of the government’s efforts to contain the outbreak, the Scheme’s support as well as health and safety tips to prevent contraction.
Although WHO envisaged that travel or trade to and from China would not be inhibited, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) recently reported that the virus had hampered many South African individuals and businesses that rely on exports to China. South Africa initially took precautionary measures and designated hundreds of port health authorities to complete temperature screenings for all travellers, especially those from China and other Asian countries as well as Italy, at OR Tambo and Cape Town International Airports.
Since then, President Ramaphosa has declared the outbreak of COVID-19 a national state of disaster on Monday, 23 March and the country will be on lockdown as per the government’s guidelines as of Thursday, 26 March at midnight to Thursday, 16 April at midnight. Various spheres of the public and private sector have been mobilised to assist in containing the virus to minimise the effects on our society and economy. The South African National Defence Force (SANDF) has been deployed to provide additional support to the South African Police Service (SAPS).
Several hospitals nationwide have been earmarked as treatment centres for positively diagnosed patients. Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize states that the designated hospitals will be able to isolate, manage and contain suspected or confirmed cases of the virus adequately. Other hospitals are said to be able to manage suspected cases, but positively diagnosed patients from these facilities will be transferred to the designated hospitals to contain the virus and centralise data collection.
There is no specific antiviral treatment at this stage. Treatment is only supportive.
A 24-hour hotline has been set up at the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) to field questions from healthcare professionals. It is highly advised to contact a healthcare professional immediately if exposure to the virus is suspected, by way of having travelled to areas with confirmed cases of the virus, having come into close contact with someone who has travelled or experiencing flu-like symptoms and a fever.
Regardless of your employees’ Bestmed benefit option, they will be covered for COVID-19 in the unfortunate event that their, or one of their dependants, tests positive. The Scheme will provide cover for confirmed cases in order to pay for diagnostics as well as treatment in and out of hospital. In the case of a positive diagnosis, the member, their representative or their healthcare provider must notify Bestmed of the member’s diagnosis as soon as possible via telephone on 086 000 3378 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In order to support members in taking precautionary measures, Bestmed will also cover hand sanitizers from members’ available over-the-counter (OTC) benefits if purchased from a registered pharmacy.
The virus itself is preventable and global authorities and the South African NICD recommend good hand hygiene (handwashing with soap and water), cough etiquette, avoiding contact with animals when in high-risk countries, and adhering to the following:
- Avoiding close contact with people suffering from acute respiratory infections
- Avoiding visiting markets where live animals are sold
- Avoid non-essential travel, especially to high-risk countries
National Institute for Communicable Diseases hotline: 0800 029 999
Operating hours: 08:00- 16:00 (Monday- Friday)