The UKZN panel on the coronavirus discussion: Professor Tulio De Oliveira, Dr Richard Lessels, and Dr Nokukhanya Msomi.

Professor Tulio de Oliveira of the KwaZulu-Natal Research Innovation and Sequencing Platform (KRISP) led a seminar at UKZN on the origins and transmission of the deadly coronavirus currently plaguing about 36 countries and territories around the world.

The seminar examined how prepared South Africa is to respond effectively should there be an outbreak of the virus in this country.

The debate focused on the genome, epidemiology, and clinical features of the virus, which is reported to have killed more than 2 600 people globally, the vast majority of them in China where the source of the disease has been identified as a market in the city of Wuhan where live wild animals are sold.

Scientists in China say the endangered pangolin may be a host of the virus which is apparently similar to two viruses that circulate in bats.

The Head of the Virology Discipline at UKZN, Dr Nokukhanya Msomi, said: ‘So far in South Africa there are no reported cases of infection. There are screening measures at all ports of entry and authorities are in the process of procuring the necessary equipment to ensure efficient testing for and detection of the virus.’

Words and photograph: Lihle Sosibo