The Chinese mission says it is helping local authorities to monitor the movements of people travelling from that country to South Africa.
The Chinese consul general, Lin Jing was, asked to appear before Parliament’s tourism portfolio committee on Tuesday to detail how the coronavirus outbreak is affecting the busy tourism route from the East to South Africa.
Members of Parliament heard how the corona outbreak will hurt South Africa’s tourism numbers.
Jing said South Africa welcomes about 100 000 Chinese tourists a year. But those numbers have all but ground to a halt with people being limited from travelling in and out of China.
Updating MPs on the latest number of infections in China, Jing said the current number stands at 77 780, with 2 824 deaths. So far, 27 000 people have been cured and discharged from hospital.
Jing said reports of new confirmed cases outside the epicentre of Wuhan have slowed down to only nine cases in recent weeks.
“The overall situation has improved a lot. A lot of cities have downgraded the class of emergencies. There are eight provinces that have downgraded their response from first class to second to third class. In a few days, more provinces are going to readjust [and] downgrade the class of their response,” Jing said.
So far, the Covid-19 strain of the coronavirus has spread to 25 countries. Among the worst-affected countries is South Korea, with 893 reported cases and nine deaths. Italy has a reported 222 cases with seven deaths, and Japan has 159 confirmed cases with one person dead.
Africa safe, for now
Meanwhile on the African continent, only one confirmed case, in Egypt, has been reported.
“In Africa, we are very lucky. We are favoured by God. In South Africa we have no report of confirmed cases. But our embassy in Pretoria is keeping high vigilance on the possible spread to South Africa and Africa,” Jing told committee members.
The Chinese consul said the embassy has early warning systems that have previously worked to isolate people suspected to be carrying the coronavirus from entering South Africa.
“Last month there was a report of a [Chinese] tourist group coming from Madagascar to Johannesburg, who would have gone on to Cape Town. There were some people in that group [who] had a fever. With co-ordination between [the embassy in] Pretoria, Cape Town, and Madagascar we were able to convince that group to turn back — first to Madagascar and then back home to China.”
Jing said tourism authorities in South Africa and China have been working hard but there is no respite from the pre-emptive steps necessary to prevent an outbreak of the virus in the country.
“The South African government has developed appropriate and efficient measures [to curb the spread]. When a suspected case is found, the relevant authorities will be alerted and they will be sent to designated hospital. The South African government has identified 11 hospitals to receive suspected cases of NCP [nuvo corona pneumonia],” he said.
Jing said of the more than one million foreigners living in China, only about 20 of them had been diagnosed with coronavirus, with two people dying. He said no South Africans have been infected.
There are about 3 000 South Africans living in China, with 500 living in the epicentre of the outbreak in Wuhan.