Quarantine sign
    • If you suspect somebody has the novel coronavirus and authorities aren't aware of it, you have a legal obligation to report them.
    • Ditto if you think people have come into contact with a carrier of the virus behind Covid-19.
    • That goes for everyone – but church leaders specifically.
    • Those rules aren't new. SA's regulations have been ready for something like SARS-CoV-2 for years.
    • Go to the Business Insider South Africa homepage for more stories.

    If you think somebody has the novel coronavirus and hasn't come to the attention of authorities, you have a legal obligation to report them.

    In fact, if you have so much as a reasonable suspicion that somebody has come into contact with a carrier of the virus behind Covid-19, you have to report that too.

    And while that is true for everyone in South Africa, it goes specifically for church leaders.

    South Africa has two dozen urgent notifiable medical conditions, such as anthrax or the plague, medical staff – and everyone else – is required to immediately report, in terms of what is formally known as the Regulations Relating to the Surveillance and the Control of Notifiable Medical Conditions. (Other lists, which cover conditions such as leprosy and TB, also come with an obligation to notify health authorities, but on a less urgent basis.)

    That list was last updated in 2017 – but still makes provision for SARS-CoV-2, even though it was only detected in 2019.

    That is because, after the emergence of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (Sars) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (Mers), the list was updated to include “respiratory disease caused by a novel respiratory pathogen”.

    Such a disease requires everyone from private laboratories to medical aids to inform the department of health within 24 hours of becoming aware of a case.

    But the obligation goes beyond professionals, covering “any member of the community, including community health workers, local leaders, traditional or religious leaders” in terms of the regulations.They are required to report “to the nearest health establishment” anyone they know of, “or reasonably suspects” to be a carrier or who has been in contact with a carrier.

    Failure to honour a duty to notify can come with 10 years in jail.

    Members of the public are expected to notify healthcare providers who, in turn, notify the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD).

    For any help on the novel coronavirus, phone the NICD on 0800 029 999.

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