Following the announcement that South Africa had recorded its first case of coronavirus, President Cyril Ramaphosa has called on locals not to panic but to be alert.
Speaking at the Waterkloof Airforce Base on Thursday afternoon, Ramaphosa applauded the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) for acting “quickly and swiftly” in confirming the case of Covid-19 in a 38-year-old who had travelled to Italy with his wife.
The man had travelled through OR Tambo International Airport and took a connecting flight to KwaZulu-Natal.
According to Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize, who broke the news earlier on Thursday, the man had been travelling with his wife in Italy – one of the countries hardest hit by the outbreak, with more than 2500 confirmed cases according to the latest World Health Organisation statistics.
They landed in the country on March 1, and were part of a group of 10 others who arrived back in the country from Italy.
Covid-19 is an infectious disease caused by the most recently discovered coronavirus. It was virtually unknown before the outbreak began in Wuhan, China in December 2019.
To date, more than 93 000 cases have been confirmed. More than 80 000 of these are in China.
“We’re not the only country affected. Many more have been and it looks like it will spread to other parts of the world. The key question is, are we prepared? And this morning I was quite impressed with the level of preparedness in terms of being able to identify what it is and having the person isolated immediately. We are gearing up more and more as a country,” the president said.
Speaking at a media briefing held after a parliamentary debate on the country’s readiness for the disease landing on our shores, Mkhize said this (the confirmed first case) was an “evolving matter and we will not currently have all the answers” because a lot of the response would be based on what would happen as the situation was being monitored.
From what is currently known, the patient consulted a private general practitioner on March 3 with symptoms of fever, headache, malaise, a sore throat and a cough.
He has since been self-isolating and so too have all the people who came in contact with him, including his doctor.
According to the minister, they are under self-quarantine in their homes. This includes no social contact and the daily monitoring of symptoms such as checking for a spike in their temperature.
Professor Cheryl Cohen, co-head for the centre for respiratory disease and meningitis at the NICD, emphasised: “There is no suggestion [currently] that Covid-19 is spreading widely in any community or in KwaZulu-Natal.”