Two South African citizens working on a Japanese cruise ship have tested positive for the Covid-19 virus, known as the coronavirus, the health ministry said on Friday.
"The South African government has been made aware by Japanese authorities through the South African embassy in Tokyo, that there were 12 South African crew members working on board the Diamond Princess Cruise Ship when it was affected by Covid-19.
"On 25 February 2020, we were informed by the Japanese authorities that two of these South Africans tested positive for Covid-19. They are currently being treated in Japan and the latest reports indicate that they are currently asymptomatic," the ministry said in a statement.
"At this stage, it is most appropriate that the Covid-19 confirmed South African citizens should be treated in Japan until they are fully recovered from the virus and are no longer contagious before they travel further.
"For the remaining 10, they will be permitted to disembark the ship as per the instructions of their employer after they test negative for coronavirus, be subjected to a further 14-day quarantine in Japan, then further tested thereafter to determine if they may be cleared for travel.
"South Africa will continue to monitor the situation closely and maintain contact with the government of Japan in order to keep the public informed."
Disembarkation in a phased approach
The cruise ship arrived in the Japanese Port of Yokohama with 3 700 people on board. On February 1, it was announced that a patient who had disembarked in Hong Kong on January 25 had tested positive for the coronavirus.
This led to a quarantine period on board the ship that ended on February 19. It was only at then that the South African government was informed of the situation.
According to the ministry, passengers and crew on board are being tested for the coronavirus. To date, 705 have tested positive and these patients have been transferred off the ship for medical assistance.
"The disembarkation process of unaffected passengers has been a phased approach whereby passengers are released after testing negative for Covid-19. The ship company has indicated that the disembarkation of passengers is a priority and that crew members will be allowed to disembark after all passengers have disembarked," the ministry said.
On Friday, Nigeria announced the first confirmed case in sub-Saharan Africa, AFP reported.
The affected person is an Italian citizen who works in Nigeria and returned from Milan earlier this week, Health Minister Osagie Ehanire said in a statement on Twitter.
"The patient is clinically stable, with no serious symptoms, and is being managed at the Infectious Disease Hospital in Yaba, Lagos," Ehanire said.
South Africans in Wuhan
The South African government is planning to repatriate all South Africans from the Chinese city of Wuhan where the virus originated.
Covid-19 was first reported in Wuhan, Hubei province, in November 2019.
It was estimated that there were 199 South Africans in Wuhan, according to the Department of International Relations and Cooperation.