Government Employees Medical Scheme (GEMS)

The Government Employees Medical Scheme (GEMS) is urging its members who may become unwell and suspect that they may have symptoms of Coronavirus (COVID-19) to seek immediate medical care.

In a statement issued recently, GEMS Principal Officer, Dr Stanley Moloabi said: “Like all citizens of the world we are concerned by the global spread of the virus, particularly that the outbreak has now been confirmed in South Africa.

“We therefore, encourage all our members who might have travelled to areas with confirmed cases, or have come into close contact with someone who has travelled to high risk areas, and thereafter, experienced symptoms, to seek immediate medical attention.

No transmission of COVID-19 in SA

On Thursday morning, the Health Department confirmed four new Coronavirus cases – bringing the total confirmed cases to 17, with the first local transmission in the Free State, where a 32-year-old male came into contact with a Chinese businessman.

However, later in the afternoon, Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize informed the nation that: “There were 17 confirmed cases of the virus we reported this morning…but we have subsequently found that the Free case which initially tested positive earlier, we have subsequently found is negative.”

This was also confirmed by the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD). “We humbly apologise for the error in reporting the first case of local transmission of COVID-19 in our earlier report. On verification, the case was found to be negative. As of 12 March 2020, 16 persons have tested positive for COVID-19.”

It is reported that the new confirmed cases exclude the outstanding results for the two patients who formed part of the group of 10 that travelled to Italy.

The cases are from the following Provinces 

Kwazulu-Natal (1)

A 38-year-old male from Durban who lives in Turkey and was visiting his family in South Africa has tested positive. He had travelled to the UK and returned to SA on March 7, 2020.

Mpumalanga (1)

A 27-year-old woman from the province who travelled to the United States and returned to South Africa on March 7, 2020.

Gauteng (1)

A 43-year-old man from Johannesburg who had travelled to New York via Dubai and returned to South Africa on March 8, 2020.

GEMS is required to fund all clinically appropriate care and related costs, including Coronavirus related testing, in line with this year’s Council for Medical Schemes resolution which states that medical schemes are required to cover diagnosis, treatment and care costs of clinically appropriate care as prescribed by the Medical Schemes Act of 1998.

In addition, GEMS members should recognise that the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) and the Department of Health has put measures in place to detect, manage and contain the spread of the virus.

Dr Moloabi said: “the Scheme, however, continues to emphasize the importance of observing basic hygiene to minimize the risk of infection and spread of viruses. We further urge our members to follow the guidelines published by the NICD and the Department of Health.

He said GEMS members will be kept informed of any new developments through the GEMS website, social media platforms, SMS and call centre.

GEMS is South Africa’s largest restricted medical scheme, covering over 720 000 principal members and over 1.8 million dependants.

GEMS is committed to excellence, sustainability and being effective in healthcare coverage. It drives transformation in the healthcare industry, aligned with the principles of universal healthcare coverage.

Declaring COVID-19 a pandemic  

The World Health Organisation (WHO) on Wednesday confirmed the Coronavirus as a as a pandemic.

WHO Director-General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said: “WHO has been assessing this outbreak around the clock and we are deeply concerned both by the alarming levels of spread and severity, and by the alarming levels of inaction.

“We have therefore made the assessment that COVID-19 can be characterized as a pandemic, which means it is prevalent over the world.

“Pandemic is not a word to use lightly or carelessly. It is a word that, if misused, can cause unreasonable fear, or unjustified acceptance that the fight is over, leading to unnecessary suffering and death,” said Dr Ghebreyesus.

He said describing the situation as a pandemic does not change WHO’s assessment of the threat posed by this virus, adding that it does not change what WHO is doing, and it does not change what countries should do.

“We have never before seen a pandemic sparked by a Coronavirus. This is the first pandemic caused by a Coronavirus and we have never before seen a pandemic that can be controlled, at the same time,” he said.

What are the symptoms of a Coronavirus?

COVID-19 symptoms range from mild to severe and it takes 2-14 days after exposure for symptoms to develop. Symptoms may include fever, cough, and shortness of breath.

Those with weakened immune systems may develop symptoms, such as pneumonia or bronchitis. Again, the COVID-19 virus can be spread through contact with certain bodily fluids, such as droplets in a cough. It might also be caused by touching something an infected person has touched and then touching your hand to your mouth, nose, or eyes.