Coronavirus in South Africa climbs to 24 cases

March 13, 2020
March 13, 2020 Tumelo Moloi

The Department of Health has confirmed that eight more positive cases of the Covid-19 coronavirus have been found in South Africa, taking the total infections up to 24.

The patients have been found in Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal and the Western Cape, having caught the virus while travelling.

It was announced on Thursday that the first case of local transmission was discovered, but this was later retracted after testing came back negative.

The latest patients include

  • A 39 year old female from Gauteng who had travelled to Switzerland and Austria;
  • A 50 year old male from Gauteng who had travelled to Austria;
  • A 21 year old female from Gauteng who had travelled to Italy;
  • A 57 year old male from Gauteng who had travelled to Switzerland;
  • A 79 year old male from KZN who had travelled to Greece and Italy;
  • A 52 year old male from KZN who had travelled to Switzerland;
  • A 50 year old male from the Western Cape who had travelled to Switzerland and Austria;
  • A 46 year old male Western Cape who had travelled to Italy.

The latest numbers come after the department announced the discovery of three additional cases on Thursday.

This is how the virus is distributed across the provinces:

  • KwaZulu-Natal: 10 cases
  • Gauteng: 10 cases
  • Western Cape: 3 cases
  • Mpumalanga: 1 case

Contact tracing and quarantine

The health department announced earlier this week that 105 people who came into contact with the initial group of seven Covid-19 patients have been put under quarantine.

With the new cases, the number of South Africans who will be quarantined is expected to increase dramatically, as each recorded case so far had been into contact with around 15 people.

Other precautions have been taken, with some schools closing down for a day to deep clean after it emerged that a staff member came into contact with one of the people who tested positive for for the virus.

Contacts are put into quarantine, while those who test positive are put into isolation.

Isolation refers to the isolation and confinement of Covid-19 positive individuals and this happens at one of the designated isolation facilities in South Africa.

Quarantine implies the use or creation of appropriate facilities in which persons are separated from the community while being attended to. According to the World Health Organisation, possible settings include “holiday facilities, dormitory or military facilities, amongst others, while home based quarantine may be the only feasible option.”

“In the setting of quarantine, the people being attended to are well but have had exposure to Covid-19. They are therefore quarantined to allow the incubation period to pass and wait for the test results when they are conducted,” the health department said.

Wuhan evacuation

Health minister Zweli Mkhize confirmed that the Ranch Resort in Polokwane will host the 122 repatriated South Africans from Wuhan, Hubei Province, in China.

“Three sites were identified. Of the three sites that were shortlisted, The Ranch Resort was selected. An agreement has been signed with the owner of the resort. We went through 84 sites for possible quarantine,” said the minister.

Mkhize made the announcement on Thursday evening during a briefing by the Inter-Ministerial Committee on the coronavirus in Polokwane. Mkhize reiterated that those returning are not sick but healthy citizens.

All military and health department personnel including the crew that undertook the repatriation will be housed at the resort. To allay the fears of workers at the Ranch Resort, insurance company Momentum has partnered with government to offer a limited life cover to the workers.

Staff will also receive medical screening ahead of the arrival of the South Africans. With the SANDF as the head of operations, Mkhize reiterated that military rules will apply with police playing a supportive role.

Mkhize said those who test positive for the virus during the quarantine in Polokwane will be removed and taken for treatment.

He also took the time to dispel myths that the coronavirus targets specific races.

“Coronavirus doesn’t look at your passport, doesn’t look at your nationality, doesn’t look at your circumstances whether you’re rich or poor, doesn’t care whether you’re within one metre of somebody sneezing, a droplet of infection will hit you,” he said.

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