Home Articles Confusion in Benoni as contradictory statements released surrounding a Covid-19 case

Confusion in Benoni as contradictory statements released surrounding a Covid-19 case

by Salaamedia

Mohammed Arai | 24 March 2020 | Featured Image: Google 

The rising number of Covid-19 cases and the risk of local transmission has provided a rude awakening to many who, up until very recently, considered it to be a problem for people in distant lands with nothing to do with South Africa. But it is closer to home than many expected.

On Sunday, 22 March 2020, the Actonville Community Police Forum Executive Chairman, Mr. Muneeb Ebrahim, released a statement on several WhatsApp groups calling all individuals who attended a programme at Masjid Bilal (a mosque in the same Benoni suburb) on 15 March 2020 to self-isolate and have Covid-19 tests conducted. According to the message, “a person who attended this programme has tested positive and is under quarantine”.

A sense of panic set in amongst those who attended that programme and the community at large. The statement provided very few details and did not mention the name of the person who had tested positive.

An unexpected second WhatsApp message by Maulana Anees Munchi, an Imam and Muslim scholar based in Benoni, was soon thereafter forwarded on the same WhatsApp groups, affirming that his father, Mr. Muhammad (Bhai) Munchi tested positive for Covid-19 and had contracted the virus on 16 March 2020, a day after the people attended the said programme and a day after the President had announced the 100 people per event restriction.

The date of the 16 March 2020 supplied by Ml. Anees was vital information as it meant that on 15 March 2020, his father did not have the virus and people were, therefore, less at risk.

Ml Anees’s statement argued that his father came into contact with the virus on 16 March at the Johannesburg Tabligh Markaz, an institution of Islamic proselytizing, where Mr. Muhammad Munchi is a senior and respected member. There he met two individuals who had returned from Pakistan on that day, 16 March, who later tested positive for Covid-19. Ml. Anees thereby refuted suggestions that his father had already contracted the virus when he returned from Pakistan on the morning of 15 March 2020.

“When he returned on Sunday [15 March 2020], he did not have any symptoms of coronavirus. His temperature was tested at the airport, and everything was fine. To date, none of those who returned with him [from Pakistan] have displayed any symptoms of the virus. It was only after he came into contact with the two people [on 16 March], that he began to display symptoms of the virus. He went for testing on Friday, 20 March from the Markaz, returned home the next day and went straight into strict quarantine. On Saturday night [21 March], I received a call from the doctor that he has tested positive. My father is quite confident that he did not have the virus when he attended the programme on 15 March 2020,” reads a part of Ml Anees’s statement.

Salaamedia on Monday contacted Mr. Muneeb Ebrahim of the Actonville Community Policing Forum to get a better understanding of his view.

Ebrahim confirmed that the unnamed person in his statement is, in fact, Mr. Muhammad Munchi, but it became apparent during the telephonic interview that Ebrahim did not contact the Munchi family before releasing his statement on Sunday morning.

“Think about this,” Ebrahim told Salaamedia, “it is not possible that Maulana Anees’s father contracted the virus on 16 March, and went for testing on 20 March. The time frame is too short for him to have had shown any symptoms between 16 March and 20 March. This means that he contracted the virus before 16 March, hence the possibility that he may have transmitted the virus to other attendees on the day of the programme.”

When corrected by Salaamedia that a person can show symptoms even after two days since exposure to the virus, Ebrahim responded: “Okay, fair enough, but what about the fact that those who returned from Pakistan with Maulana Anees’s father have tested positive as well?”

“Let me reiterate that our intention to release that statement was not to ridicule or upset any individual or family; it was to bring to people’s attention the severity of the possible transmission which may have occurred at the programme, and the steps they may need to take to remain safe,” said Ebrahim.

Regarding the statement issued by Ebrahim, Ml. Anees reiterated: “The statement was released after it became publicly known that my father has tested positive. And my father was the only person at the programme that has tested positive, so I am certain that Muneeb’s statement refers to my father.”

“All those people that returned with my father on the morning of 15 March 2020 from Pakistan have not shown any symptoms, nor have they tested positive for coronavirus up to date. The two individuals who have tested positive returned from Pakistan on 16 March 2020, and that’s when my father felt he contracted the virus since he was with them all the time at the Markaz from 16 March 2020. However, true knowledge lies with the Almighty.”

Munchi provided Salaamedia with the names of his father’s co-passengers and the names of the two individuals who returned from Pakistan on 16 March 2020 and have tested positive. However, to respect the privacy of those individuals, their names have not been furnished in this article.

“Upon landing in South Africa, my father and his co-passengers were tested twice, once in the flight and once inside the airport. Both tests confirmed that he did not have the virus,” added Munchi.

“Also to be noted,” said Munchi, “is the fact that from many of those that attended the programme and went for Covid-19 testing after seeing Muneeb’s statement, all of their results have shown negative.”

When asked how his father is doing now, Munchi said: “He is feeling much better. He is no longer showing any symptoms of the virus.”

Edited by: Azhar Vadi 

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