Citizen reporter
3 minute read
6 Mar 2020
3:11 pm

No new Covid-19 cases in SA, but still unclear where Wuhan group is going

Citizen reporter

The health minister briefed the country on the current status of the response to the disease in SA, urging citizens to work together to fight a possible outbreak.

Minister of Health Zweli Mkhize addressing a media briefing on the coronavirus at Parliament on 5 March 2020 in Cape Town, as the first case of the Covid-19 illness was detected in the country - a 38-year-old man who travelled to Italy. Picture: Rodger Bosch/AFP

In a media briefing on Friday to update the public on South Africa’s response to Covid-19, caused by a novel coronavirus, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said no new infections had been identified after yesterday’s first scare in KwaZulu-Natal.

A 38-year-old businessman tested positive, but reportedly said on Friday that he was already feeling much better after being sent home by his doctor to self-quarantine.

“I believe I’m on the path to recovery and I am feeling much better than I was a few days ago. I remain in self-isolation until I have been given the all-clear. I trust the worst is over and I’m coming to grips with it,” he has said.

Government officials and parents at the Cowan House Prep in Hilton in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands met at the school, as the infected man is one of the school’s parents.

The school was closed for the day.

Mkhize said the department would not cancel the school’s operations.

“We will be able to deal with it.”

The businessman consulted a private GP on March 3 after feeling “uncomfortable” with symptoms of fever, headache, malaise, a sore throat and a cough.

Mkhize said those who were recently in close contact with the man were currently being closely monitored for any symptoms.

Urging the country to stop spreading fake news, he said those in hospital where the patient was kept were well and were ready to respond to the virus.

“The family has been visited by our trained team. We work in concentric circles of contacts. Anyone who is in contact with the patient will be observed.

The minister made a call for South Africans not to stigmatise anyone with the disease so that people would not be scared to come forward and be tested.

After the Mail & Guardian reported on Friday that the plane apparently already standing at the ready to evacuate 151 South Africans trapped in Wuhan, China, had been struggling to find a willing crew, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize again denied the report on Friday.

“We must stop spreading fake news that frightens people,” Mkhize said. 

The evacuation is meant to happen sometime after next week, but the air force reportedly had to deal with the problem that it could not “force” personnel to head into the epicentre of the virus outbreak, and the military itself had supposedly “advised against the evacuation”, which is now being denied.

Nearly 3,000 Chinese have died in the outbreak there.

The South African citizens being repatriated were meant to be taken to a secure facility in the Free State where they would be quarantined after President Cyril Ramaphosa last week ordered their repatriation.

However, Mkhize said on Friday that talks with the resort that had been identified had broken down and they were therefore still seeking the right location to take the group.

The Citizen reported this week that the citizens could be quarantined at the Black Mountain Leisure and Conference Hotel in the heart of Maria Moroka Nature Reserve in Thaba Nchu, Free State.

The government’s plan, according to reports, was that the repatriates would land at the airport in Bloemfontein and then be taken to Thaba Nchu, but the concern was that the airport was a public space, therefore risky.

The Citizen has also learnt from a reliable source that the 3 Military Hospital in Tempe, Bloemfontein, was being prepared as one of the venues for the coronavirus quarantine army base. Staff at the Tempe base were apparently not told where exactly this quarantine would be.

The SANDF officially confirmed yesterday it was part of a multidisciplinary team supporting the health department and international relations and cooperation department, as instructed by Ramaphosa.

(Compiled by Charles Cilliers and Gopolang Moloko)

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