COVID-19 fears in Newcastle continues as SA’s confirmed cases increase, spreading fake news can now result in jail time

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Tensions are running high as the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, continues to spread around the globe. With the world following news on the virus, tensions in South Africa are running just as high, following the announcement that the confirmed COVID-19 cases in the country shot up to 150 on March 19.

However, as the coronavirus infects more and more people, rumours are currently running rife in both the country and in Newcastle.

Recent rumours speculate there are three confirmed cases in Newcastle, while another claims there is one confirmed case.

However, local hospitals claim this is not so and say there are no confirmed cases in Newcastle at present.

A source at Madadeni Hospital says the hospital recently investigated three suspected cases, going as far as to take to the necessary swabs and contacting the National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD).

“The three suspected cases displayed one or two of the symptoms, but there are no confirmed cases at present. Why would I lie about something like this?” the source claims.

Mediclinic South Africa recently issued a statement, which stated Mediclinic can confirm that there are currently no confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus at Mediclinic Newcastle.

The statement further explains that in strict accordance with NICD and National Department of Health protocols, Mediclinic has implemented the necessary measures to manage any patients presenting with symptoms and to prevent the potential transmission of the virus in our facilities.

“We urge the public to take the necessary precautions when travelling to affected areas. We also encourage anyone experiencing signs and symptoms of flu or who thinks that they may have been exposed to the virus to contact their healthcare provider,” the statement reads further.

The NICD has also been contacted to determine if there are any cases in Newcastle, as to ensure Newcastillians do not have to panic.

However, the NICD responded by saying it could not disclose further patient information than what is contained in its media updates.

To date, there are 150 COVID-19 cases in South Africa. The cases are in the following provinces:

  • Gauteng stands at 76 cases
  • KwaZulu-Natal currently has 22 confirmed cases
  • Limpopo has one confirmed case
  • Mpumalanga has five confirmed cases
  • Western Cape has 46 confirmed cases.

With fake news and rumours creating a deep-seated sense of fear and panic in communities around South Africa, the community is warned to avoid the sharing of fake news.

The Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA) has gazetted a set of strict new regulations, empowering government to act against those who deliberately endanger themselves and others during the coronavirus epidemic.

According to the new regulations anyone who creates or spreads fake news about Covid-19 can be prosecuted.

It, therefore, applies to both the creators of fake Covid-19 news and those who spread the news through social media and other channels.

With the possibility of prosecution and jail time, people are encouraged to avoid the spreading of unconfirmed news regarding COVID-19.

South Africans are reminded to remain calm and ensure they follow the necessary steps to avoid contracting COVID-19.

According to the NICD, there are precautions you can follow to avoid being infected. These precautions are as follows:
  • Wash your hands thoroughly with soap, before and after being out in public.
  • Practice good personal hygiene. This includes covering your mouth when coughing or sneezing. Don’t touch your face until you wash your hands.
  • Do not share food and utensils, as bacteria can be transmitted onto knives, forks, spoons and straws. Also, avoid sharing drinks.

If you suspect you came into contact with COVID-19, be sure to contact the NICD public hotlines on 0800 029 999 or 0800 111 132.

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