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SA coronavirus case confirmed

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“They are so vague about this and it is unfair. What airport did he use, what town does he stay in? Let the people know that might be in the vicinity so they can be prepared.”

THE MINISTER of Health, Dr Zweli Mkhize, yesterday confirmed the first case of Covid-19 coronavirus in South Africa.

“The National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) has confirmed that a suspected case of Covid-19 has tested positive. The patient is a 38-year-old male who travelled to Italy with his wife,” the minister said in a statement issued yesterday.

The couple were part of a group of 10 people who arrived back in South Africa on March 1.

“The patient consulted a private general practitioner on March 3, with symptoms of fever, headache, malaise, a sore throat and a cough. The practice nurse took swabs and delivered it to the lab. The patient has been self-isolating since March 3.”

Mkhize added that the couple also has two children.

“The Emergency Operating Centre (EOC) has identified the contacts by interviewing the patient and doctor. The tracer team has been deployed to KwaZulu-Natal with epidemiologists and clinicians from NICD. The doctor has been self-isolated as well.”

Mkhize said a press briefing would be held later after the parliamentary debate last night to shed more light on this issue.

The announcement came a day after the NICD denied rumours on social media of a positive Covid-19 case in South Africa.

In a statement on Wednesday, the NICD stated that 181 persons had been tested for SARS-CoV-2, of whom 132 have met the case definition for persons under investigation. “All results have come back negative, and the NICD confirms that SA has not had a confirmed case of Covid-19 to date.”

Over 90 000 coronavirus cases have been confirmed worldwide. More than 3 000 people have died globally, the vast majority in China. Over 100 people in Italy have died, while over 3 000 have tested positive.

Yesterday’s statement by the Minister of Health has left South Africans with a host of unanswered questions about the case in KwaZulu-Natal, including the status of the other members of the party to Italy, where the victim’s children attend school, were tests conducted on the passengers and crew of the flight they returned to South Africa on, the status of the nurse who took the swabs, as well as the other patients in the doctor’s surgery.

Some members of the public have pointed out that everyone on the plane should have been placed under quarantine.

“There needs to be complete transparency in this. Flight dates, times and numbers, airports, what area they live in, what school their children attend, etc,” one person stated on social media.

“It is time the government shows us how ready they really are to deal with this,” another person stated.

“They are so vague about this and it is unfair. What airport did he use, what town does he stay in? Let the people know that might be in the vicinity so they can be prepared.”

The DA’s spokesperson on Health, Siviwe Gwarube, yesterday called on the South African government to take the nation into its confidence and reveal its plans for dealing with the virus.

“Panic has set in across the world as the Covid-19 virus continues to wreak havoc in countries with some of the strongest health systems,” Gwarube said. “It is clear that the world is gripped with fear as 81 countries have confirmed cases of those infected by the epidemic. To date, over 3 000 deaths have been reported worldwide out of over 95 000 infections.”

He pointed out that countries had gone into crisis-mode, imposing travel bans and enforcing quarantine measures as they try to valiantly contain the virus.

“We know the state of our health care outside an epidemic outbreak. It is therefore not unreasonable to be sceptical about our abilities in the absence of concrete plans to deal with a potential public health crisis.

“The coronavirus is a public health emergency that has the potential to infect and kill thousands should the correct measures to screen, prevent, isolate and treat be inadequate.

“That is why the South African government should use this opportunity to take the nation into its confidence and table the plans that will deal with any eventuality.”

Gwarube called on the Minister of Health to appraise Parliament on the measures that his department are taking to screen, test and possibly isolate and treat cases, particularly at every airport, harbour or border post.

“There are now eight confirmed cases on the African continent which emanate from other parts of the world. We need assurance that sufficient resources are being allocated to conduct this mammoth task. We also need to ensure that our health care workers are supported during this strenuous time.”

He added that the health care facilities that have been identified as centres of treatment for this epidemic should be revised as the risk has increased exponentially.

“An epidemic of this magnitude requires planning and precise execution. That is why the DA is calling for a revision of the facilities which have been selected for this purpose based on the capacity of the health facility.”