South Africa confirmed its first coronavirus case after a 38-year-old man who traveled to Italy tested positive, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said.
The infected South African, who was part of a group of 10 people who traveled to Italy, returned home on March 1, went into self-isolation on March 3 and is now being treated in the hospital.
It has taken more than two months for the virus to reach South African from mainland China, where it originated. Globally the number of confirmed cases tops 96,000 with more than 3,300 people having died.
President Cyril Ramaphosa said the government had made adequate preparations to deal with the coronavirus and will ensure there is maximum transparency about its spread.
The spread of the new virus can remain “minimal and slow” if the outbreak is fought at the source and countries cooperate, the World Health Organization’s chief said. The WHO declared the outbreak of coronavirus in China a global health emergency on Jan. 30.
“There is no sign that coronavirus is spreading widely” in South Africa at this juncture, said Cheryl Cohen, the NICD’s head of respiratory diseases. All people who were in contact with the infected South African have been asked to self-quarantine until it can be ascertained whether they have the virus, in line with best international practice, she said.
The virus isn’t expected to have a massive impact on South Africa’s mortality rate, although it could lead to longer hospital stays and push up medical-insurance costs, according to Risto Ketola, group finance director of insurer Momentum Metropolitan Group.