Residents of Hilton in KwaZulu-Natal have expressed fear and uncertainty after a member of the community contracted the deadly coronavirus. But they have different views about how to handle the news and what to expect from the government.
The town has been the centre of media and government attention since it was announced that a local doctor quarantined herself after diagnosing the local man on his return from a holiday in Italy with his wife.
The man has also been quarantined.
Ndumiso Khumalo, a Hilton resident for more than five years, told News24 that he was concerned.
“It is a very scary thought because the first thing that comes to mind is that he’s infected others, friends, relatives all of those people he has come in contact with. I suspect there are more people with coronavirus, but they don’t know yet.”
He said he hoped “to get the best” from the government.
“I hear there are proactive plans for the virus and hope it doesn’t spread much, like [in] Italy.”
Toy Hut owner Sally Hodges said there was no need to panic.
“The authorities involved have done the right thing and I think it will be contained. Rumours fly and social media doesn’t do us any favours. I honestly don’t think it is a cause for panic.”
She added that she was surprised to hear the virus was detected in someone in Hilton.
“To be honest, I was quite surprised because I thought it would attack first at the international airports. But of course, people travel all over. It’s just a bit of a surprise, but it’s got to start somewhere.”
Sibusiso Nkosi, who travels often between Hilton and Pietermaritzburg, said: “We should have monitored people going in and out of the country. We need to make sure people visiting the airport are tested. It is very bad in other countries. This thing has been killing people so we have to be afraid.”
Gail Birss added that officials should exercise caution.
“We must just be cautious and do the right thing. It is like the flu. If you are young and fit, you should be fine.”
She criticised the government: “Why wasn’t that man tested when Italy was a hotspot? He should have been tested at the airport.”
Nondu Zuma, who was wearing a protective mask, said she worked in the same building as the man who contracted the virus.
“We feel very scared. The person affected also works in the same block as us. No officials have come to speak with us. We want to check [if we have the virus], that is why we are wearing [masks].”
Nicholas Chetty, who does deliveries between Pietermaritzburg and Hilton, said it was sad that the virus had made it to South Africa.
“They (the government) could have prevented it from coming here and stopped it at the airport or border and properly quarantined people who came with it. We fear the virus. Officials should quarantine the people who have it until they find a cure and just keep it contained.”