South Africa has had its first case of the new coronavirus, COVID-19, confirmed. Minister of Health, Dr Zweli Mkhize, announced on Thursday afternoon that a 38-year-old man has been in self-isolation since Tuesday.
"The patient is a 38-year-old male who travelled to Italy with his wife. They were part of a group of 10 people and they arrived back in South Africa on 1 March," Mkhize said in the statement.
"The patient consulted a private general practitioner on 3 March with symptoms of fever, headache, malaise, a sore throat and a cough."
The health minister said the patient showed no symptoms when he landed back in South Africa on Sunday.
A team of specialists, including epidemiologists and clinicians, is currently in KwaZulu-Natal to test those who have been in contact with the couple.
In a press briefing in Parliament Mkhize said in the interest of transparency the department was giving the information as it came to government.
“We can’t answer all the questions on who else could have been vulnerable and so on…Our team right now is busy with these. They are starting to look at who could have contracted it, then they can start. They are fairly well trained on this they will do it in terms of world standards,” he said.
He said the department will increase vigilance in specific areas.
President Cyril Ramaphosa later addressed the media at Air Force Base Waterkloof and called on South Africans not to panic.
“We should be alert, [when] people show signs of some of the symptoms, they should immediately get assistance, whether in the public sector or private,” Ramaphosa said.
More than 92000 cases of the virus have been confirmed across the world, with more than 80000 of them in China.
More than 3000 people have already died globally, the majority of them in China where the virus originated.
Shaheen Mehtar, who leads the national health department's coronavirus infection prevention and control programme, said South Africa's summer might help to slow down the spread of the virus because of Covid-19's inability to survive in high temperatures.
"The virus is very sensitive to heat, so [our current] temperatures are basically too high for the virus. Even if one or two people get infected the spread of it is not going to be very good because the virus doesn't like heat," Mehtar said.