Western Cape premier Alan Winde briefs the media outside Tygerberg Hospital. Picture ARON HYMAN
Western Cape premier Alan Winde briefs the media outside Tygerberg Hospital. Picture ARON HYMAN

The Western Cape’s first novel coronavirus case is in self-isolation, two days after arriving in Cape Town after a visit to Europe.

The patient tested positive for the virus after going to a private hospital for testing. A further three patients are being monitored in Tygerberg Hospital's infectious diseases ward while they await test results.

So far 80 people in the Western Cape have been tested for the virus. On Wednesday, health MEC Nomafrench Mbombo and premier Alan Winde addressed the media at one of the entrances to the hospital, which will serve as a designated hospital for positive patients.

Prof Jantjie Taljaard, the hospital's infectious disease specialist, emphasised the importance of containment saying, “We have a window of opportunity” to slow the spread.

Mbombo encouraged people who were worried to call the national hotline at 0800-029-911 which provides a step-by-step guide.

Winde said water restriction measures put in place during the drought in the province will be revised to ensure that enough water is accessible for personal hygiene.

Six more cases, including that of the Western Cape patient, have been confirmed in SA, taking the total to 13, health minister Zweli Mkhize announced on Wednesday morning.

The new cases are significant, because they include patients who were not part of the group of travellers who were identified as SA’s first seven Covid-19 cases. A party of 10 people travelled together to Italy, which is at the centre of Europe’s outbreak.

Contact tracing has begun for all the cases, said the minister, who is expected to provide more details at a later stage.

The Gauteng patients include a 33-year-old woman who travelled to Italy and returned to SA on March 1; a couple — a 34-year-old man and a 33-year-old woman who had travelled together to Germany and returned on March 9, and a 57-year-old man who had travelled to Austria and Italy and returned to SA on March 9.

The KwaZulu-Natal patient is a 40-year-old man who had travelled to Portugal and returned on March 7, while the Western Cape patient is a 36-year-old man who had travelled to multiple countries including Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Turkey, returning to SA on March 9.

“Some of these patients are already in hospital, while some, specifically those who are asymptomatic, are in self-quarantine.

“More information relating to these cases will be communicated. We also request that the privacy of the patients and the families continues to be observed by the media and members of the public,” Mkhize said.

The rapid spread of coronavirus, which emerged in China in December, has sparked worldwide alarm, battering financial markets and disrupting global travel and trade.

By Wednesday morning, there were more than 119,000 cases in 115 countries and territories, including 11 on the African continent, according to the Johns Hopkins tracker.

The coronavirus causes a disease called Covid-19, which is highly contagious. While most cases are mild, it can prove deadly, and the latest estimate from the World Health Organisation puts the mortality rate at 3.4%.

Correction: March 11 2020
An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that 18 people in the Western Cape had been tested, when in fact it was 80. 

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