Statement by the LIASA President

18 March 2020

LIASA recognises the global impact of COVID-19 (the coronavirus) as well as the significant influence on everyday life. Library and information workers are on the frontline as they serve their communities be it public, school, academic or special libraries and LIASA is committed to supporting LIASA members, LIASA staff, LIS workers and LIS users during these uncertain times.

In the address to the nation on 15 March, the President of South Africa, Mr. Cyril Ramaphosa declared a national disaster and listed the various measures from government to curb and contain the outbreak of the coronavirus (see https://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2020-03-15-president-ramaphosas-covid-19-address-in-23-bullet-points/). These include changes to the school calendar year, limits on public gatherings and travel restrictions. No explicit directives were issued in respect of public services such as Libraries.

LIASA advises LIS workers to follow the advice, information and guidance of their institutions in respect of the responses to combatting COVID-19 and to flattening the curve. In addition, the National Department of Health (http://www.health.gov.za/index.php/outbreaks/145-corona-virus-outbreak/465-corona-virus-outbreak) and the World Health Organisation (https://www.who.int/gpsc/5may/resources/posters/en/ ) are sources of authoritative and trustworthy information. These resource should be shared with users of our library services. At this time library and information services have a critical role to play in the dissemination of legitimate news and information and actively battle fake news.

LIASA encourages a responsible, calm, approach to combating the virus and asks the LIS sector to maintain social distancing, to institute and enforce good hygiene practices and be vigilant for the symptoms of the virus. We remind LIS staff of their obligations to their employers and to engage with them on the specifics of their situation.

All SALW activities not in line with the combatting of COVID-19 (corona virus) are to be cancelled with immediate effect. Social distancing (maintaining spaces of 1 to 2 metres per person); limiting gatherings to 100 people; regular hygiene practices including washing hands for 20 seconds or more must be in place. Self-isolation is highly encouraged and we urge everyone to find innovative and creative solutions to promoting the use of Libraries while being mindful that physical access to these places might be constrained in the current attempt to prevent the spread of the virus.

Furthermore, LIASA calls on all employers to seek a balance between maintaining the library and information services to the public while protecting the staff. There is an urgent need for protective gear and a sanitized environment. Rotating and limiting access to libraries puts library staff at great risk given the contagious nature of COVID-19. LIASA calls on all employers to find innovative solutions that will allow for the continuation of LIS services but failing this, to close all libraries and information services centres and to provide alternative channels for these services to continue even if needs be on a reduced level.

This call is a hard one for the Professional Body which is deeply committed to providing information to our communities. However, we had to balance this against our Libraries becoming a vector for this virulent danger to our society.

Ms N Crowster
LIASA President

president@liasa.org.za

Download a PDF copy of the Statement here.


What is COVID-19?

Human Coronaviruses are common throughout the world. There are many different coronaviruses identified in animals but only a small number of these can cause disease in humans.

On 7 January 2020, ‘Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2’ (SARS-CoV-2) was confirmed as the causative agent of ‘Coronavirus Disease 2019’ or COVID-19. The majority of the case-patients initially identified were dealers and vendors at a seafood, poultry and live wildlife market in China. Since then, the virus has spread to more than 100 countries, including South Africa.

Who is most at risk?

Currently, travellers to areas where there is ongoing sustained transmission of COVID-19 including Mainland China (all provinces), Hong Kong, Japan, Republic of Korea, Singapore, Vietnam, Taiwan, Italy and the Islamic Republic of Iran are at greatest risk of infection.

Furthermore, the elderly, individuals with co-morbidities and healthcare workers have been found to be at a higher risk of death.

How is it transmitted?

While the first cases probably involved exposure to an animal source, the virus now seems to be spreading from person-to-person.

The spread of the disease is thought to happen mainly via respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes, similar to how influenza and other respiratory pathogens spread. Thus far, the majority of cases have occurred in people with close physical contact to cases and healthcare workers caring for patients with COVID-19.

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

Current symptoms reported for patients with COVID-19 have included mild to severe respiratory illness with cough, sore throat, shortness of breath or fever.

The complete clinical picture with regard to COVID-19 is still not fully clear. Reported illnesses have ranged from infected people with little to no symptoms to people being severely ill and dying.

How is COVID-19 treated?

Treatment is supportive (providing oxygen for patients with shortness of breath or treating a fever, for example). To date, there is no specific antiviral treatment available. Antibiotics do not treat viral infections. However, antibiotics may be required if a bacterial secondary infection develops.

How can you prevent infection?

The following can provide protection against infection from Coronaviruses and many other viruses that are more common in South Africa:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Stay at home when you are sick and try and keep a distance from others at home.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a flexed elbow or a tissue, then throw the tissue in the bin.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.

What we are doing in South Africa?

Fever screenings are in place at international airports. If there is a suspected case, procedures are in place for case isolation as well as rapid specimen collection and transport so that the diagnosis can quickly be made. Suspected cases will be managed at designated hospitals with isolation facilities. Protocols are in place for follow up of case contacts to ensure that the virus does not spread.

Download an infographic in your language of choice, on how the Corona Virus spread:

Visit the official website for more information and infographics, to stay current with the latest news and statements: https://sacoronavirus.co.za/

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