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South African Health Minister Warns Against Misinformation On COVID-19

A health worker checks the temperature of a traveller as part of the coronavirus screening procedure at the Kotoka International Airport in Accra, Ghana./Reuters

Health Minister in South Africa Zweli Mkhize is urging South Africans to guard against misinformation and fake news about coronavirus.

The high level of misinformation on social media and fake news about coronavirus, might lead to unnecessary public panic, the minister said at a press briefing in Hilton, outside Pietermaritzburg in KwaZulu-Natal Province where the country’s first coronavirus-infected person was detected.

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“We must stop spreading fake news that either ridicules the efforts of the health worker or that frighten people or send stories around,”Mkhize said.

On Thursday the country announced its first coronavirus case.

The patient is a 38-year-old male who travelled to Italy with his wife. The couple, part of a 10-people group, arrived back in South Africa on March 1.

The man consulted a private general practitioner on March 3, with symptoms of fever, headache, malaise, a sore throat and a cough. The patient has been self-isolating since March 3.

Mkhize told reporters on Friday that the single coronavirus case in South Africa was handled perfectly in terms of the guidelines provided by the World Health Organization.

Those who were in close proximity to the man on the flight that came from Italy via Dubai to King Shaka International Airport in Durban will also be tested, Mkhize said.

The minister said some people were spreading fake news through WhatsApp about coronavirus also being confirmed in other parts of the country.

“All of those kinds of things are not helping South Africa. Only one case in SA has been confirmed, “he said.

“Media is bombarding us with queries about fake cases. I will be the one who will know first. I request you desist from fake news,” he said.

The government has heightened surveillance to safeguard the country against the virus, said Mkhize.

No country can ever stop coronavirus from reaching its shores, he said.

“But we are dealing with an emergency here. We don’t need to squabble about the weaknesses of our health system,” Mkhize said.

He urged South Africans to get united in fighting the disease.

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Written by PH

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