In a media statement on the measures  announced by President
Cyril Ramaphosa last night to contain the spread of coronavirus in the
country, the SA Medical Association (SAMA) has expressed its support for the “appropriate and
evidence-based measures to deal with the spread of the virus”.

strategies are proving key in addressing the spread of the virus in many
countries throughout the world, and appropriate steps such as those announced
by the President will, we believe, have a similar impact locally in mitigating
the spread of infection,”  Dr Angelique
Coetzee, chairperson of SAMA, explains.

Dr Coetzee
says SAMA is aware that imposing community lockdowns, limiting public
gatherings to 100 people, and closing schools are drastic steps which have the
potential to damage the country’s already fragile economy. These measures
should not be taken lightly.

we have seen that several other countries which developed heavy caseloads have
implemented drastic mitigation strategies. These have depended on strong
community responses, led by clear government directives. We urge the same
approach in South Africa,” says Dr Coetzee.

Among the
measures announced by the President are a restriction on travel to South Africa
by foreign nationals – particularly from high risk countries – a ban on
gatherings of more than 100 people, and increased allocation of resources to
healthcare to deal with the pandemic.

SAMA says
in addition to the strategies already announced, two additional steps are
needed. Firstly, the Association says it is imperative that the areas – not
just the provinces – of the identified cases be made known. This is a key
consideration in dealing with spread of coronavirus and must not be seen as
alarmist, but instead as essential information for the public.

A second
additional strategy is to give priority consideration to telemedicine.

has emerged as a crucial element of the response to coronavirus in many
countries, and enables patients to contact health providers from their homes,
and get appropriate medical advice based on the development symptoms, without
endangering healthcare workers, and other patients,” notes Dr Coetzee.

She says,
however, that current telemedicine guidelines of the Health Professions Council
of South Africa (HPCSA) make no room for such consultations, and only provide
for face-to-face interaction between patient and practitioner.

“In light
of the extraordinary situation in which we find ourselves, we call on the
Department of Health as well as the HPCSA to advocate in favour of telemedicine
as one of the mitigating strategies government must employ to contain the
spread of coronavirus. We believe such a move, which will be subject to all
ethical rules and recommended record-keeping, is a strategically sound one, and
may,” she concludes, “ultimately, present more solutions than barriers in this
fight,” Dr Coetzee concludes.