Dear SAACI Member
Without being alarmist, SAACI would like to assist you to make informed decisions about the effects that the COVID-19 or Coronavirus outbreak may have on the meetings industry. We encourage the industry to be prudent in these challenging times, but to also share positive messages where possible.
We further encourage members and the business events industry to use our media platforms in sharing their experiences so that the broader community is aware of the challenges that are unfolding.
We emphasise that no person infected with the virus has been reported in South Africa, but as we are in the people-industry, we urge all members to be vigilant and prepared.
The virus originated in Wuhan, China with more than 2 700 deaths now reported in that country and over 78 000 cases being confirmed. More than 2 900 cases have been confirmed in 27 countries outside China, with 43 deaths confirmed.
We have been monitoring the public health situation and follow updates from the World Health Organization and the South African Ministry of Health.
From a business perspective, SAACI, together with the International Congress and Convention Association, the Joint Meetings Industry Council and 19 international meetings industry associations, encourage all industry members to support measures to restore and build confidence in event participation. These are:
- Ensure that all policies and procedures that help secure the health and safety of event participants are in place and up to date,
- Maintain detailed awareness of both local and global actions and restrictions to advise on factors that may affect upcoming events,
- Cooperate with local and national authorities to implement any measures that have been determined to potentially impact event attendees, and
- Consult with event organisers and service providers any programme adjustments in response to outbreak-related impacts that can be accommodated.
- Continue to support awareness of the essential role of meetings, conventions, exhibitions and business events as drivers of recovery and advancement of global economic and societal development.
Let us demonstrate resilience and confidence by maintaining, where possible, our ongoing schedule of activities. Where it is not possible, let us work together to develop alternatives to exchange information and insights. And let us ensure that all necessary precautions are taken to ensure the safety and well-being of staff, delegates and the broader community.
About the virus itself:
Reported epidemiological trends in the outbreak and clinical presentation and outcomes are –
- Acute respiratory illness, fever, cough and shortness of breath.
- Many asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic cases are likely.
- Among severe cases, mortality approaches 20 percent, but among all diagnosed cases, mortality is around two percent, and the
- Mortality is higher in elderly people.
Disease spread within population
- Droplet transmission from symptomatic persons – usually to persons within a 1 to 2m radius for longer time durations, for example, household, or work colleagues.
Prevention of infection
- Hand hygiene, contact precautions – gloves and masks.
- Early awareness and containment of symptomatic persons.
For someone to be confirmed positive they would need to have flu-like symptoms (mild to severe respiratory illness with a sudden onset of fever, cough, difficulty breathing and a sore throat). They also need to have a travel history to an area where the virus has been confirmed or had come into contact with a person who has the virus. South Africa is following international protocol and has developed and distributed clinical guidelines and case definitions to doctors and nurses in both the public and the private sectors. We urge people to follow their normal route to access health service through their local health facility.
What are the important steps to follow when experiencing flu symptoms?
- Follow normal practice – visit a health facility and report specific details (travel overseas or potential exposure).
- The healthcare practitioner will determine whether tests are required and consult with provincial authorities and notify the National Institute for Communicable Diseases.
- If the patient fits the case definition they will either be isolated, or requested to self-isolate at home.
- Tests are confirmed within 24-48 hours and the patient will be notified.
- If positive, patients will be monitored closely, isolated and treated supportively. This may also involve self-isolation at home (with no contact with outside people).
- If negative, the patient needs to continue medical treatment as prescribed by the health practitioner.
- If positive, family, friends, colleagues and other contacts will be followed up for contact tracing (monitoring for symptoms).
What can you do to help?
- Follow normal preventative health hygiene practice (hand washing, coughing etiquette) to keep healthy.
- Seek medical help when experiencing flu symptoms.
- Disclose history and exposure.
- Co-operate with isolation and quarantine advisories.
- Co-operate with contact tracing instructions (temperature checks and follow up communication).
- Do not share fake news. Share information responsibly.
- Check and share information from official health channels or the World Health Organization on https://www.who.int/. Get information from these sites and verify any messages against this information.