coronavirus south africa first case
Minister Mkhize will brief on the course of action SA will take after its first confirmed case of Coronavirus.

South Africa’s first confirmed Coronavirus patient is now in a stable condition at Grey’s Hospital in Pietermaritzburg, where he is being treated.

The unnamed 38-year-old man was on Thursday hospitalised after being in self-quarantine following a doctor’s visit, which picked up a suspected infection.

Briefing reporters on Friday, the Minister of Health, Dr Zweli Mkhize, commended the doctor who referred the case to the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NCID), saying that she had acted according to the stipulated protocol.

The Minister once again emphasised that there was no need to panic, as South Africa continues to monitor pedantically developments around Coronavirus.

“[The doctor] diagnosed the patient via what we call an index of high suspicion. She did the examinations and sent the specimen for testing and in the process, advised the patient to voluntarily quarantine. That is what we do ordinarily and that is what happened,” Mkhize said.

The patient, said the Minister, travelled into the country from Italy via Dubai to the King Shaka International Airport (Durban) on Sunday.

“When he came into the country, he did not have any symptoms or fever at our port of entry. There was nothing untoward recorded about this particular individual. This was on 1 March,” said Mkhize.

However, two days later, the man developed symptoms and consulted a general practitioner.

“We have been looking at a number of passengers that come from various points of entry, recording each one’s history to make sure that we follow up if there is a situation that needs follow-ups,” the Minister said.

In this case, this is a man, who has a wife and two children at home.

A team of epidemiologists and environmentalists have already visited the patient’s family.

On Friday, the Minister, accompanied by KwaZulu-Natal MECs for Health and Education, briefed parents at Cowan House, the school that the Coronavirus patient’s two children attend. The school was closed on Friday as a precautionary measure.

“We have explained to the parents and the community here that the approach is we work in concentric circles of contacts. The first at the centre is the person who has symptoms and everyone this person has been in contact with over the past few days becomes part of the contacts.

“Until this person is tested positive, we observe those in the immediate ring of the individual. As soon as the person is tested positive, we then take all those who were in close contact for testing and surveillance and encourage them to voluntarily quarantine,” Mkhize said.

Depending on the severity of the case, individuals may be taken out of the area.

The Department of Health has already tested the man’s family, who is negative but in quarantine.

Systems in place

South Africa, Mkhize emphasised, has recorded only one case.

“We are on top of the situation. The people [who will be repatriated] from Wuhan, none of them have tested positive. None of them are sick and we don’t expect an increase in risk,” he said.

He reiterated that it is not necessary for Cowan House or any other school in the area to close.

During the meeting with parents, Mkhize said parents were given the travel history of the patient, as well as the context of the virus globally.

“We had been on the lookout and we had heightened our surveillance over our shores and ports of entry, just to be able to spot any of these cases, so that we can act immediately,” he said.

The department, the Minister said, developed a rapid response team that is dealing with the case.

“We activated our system such that the person was hospitalised at Grey’s Hospital,” he said.

KwaZulu-Natal has identified four hospitals which have been chosen for Coronavirus screening: Grey’s, Addington, Ngwelezane and Manguzi.

All personnel at these hospitals, including doctors, nurses and cleaners, are correctly trained and capable of implementing infection control procedures.

Infection control procedures including administrative rules and engineering controls, environmental hygiene, correct work practices, and appropriate use of personal protective equipment (PPE) are all necessary to prevent infections from spreading during healthcare delivery.

PPE includes gloves, medical masks, respirators, goggles, face shields, gowns and aprons. –