First cases of local transmission of Covid-19, total rises to 85
SA has confirmed its first cases of local transmission of Covid-19, three of whom are young children, health minister Zweli Mkhize announced late on Tuesday night as SA’s total climbed to 85.
The development adds to growing concern about the potentially devastating effects the virus will have if it spreads rapidly in poor communities.
While the number of cases of Covid-19 in SA is relatively small compared with many hard-hit countries, the rapid rise in the numbers since the first case was announced on March 5 prompted President Cyril Ramaphosa to declare a national state of disaster on Sunday. He ordered the closure of schools and imposed the most stringent restrictions on travel and mass gathering yet seen on the African continent.
Covid-19 has raced around the world since it emerged in China three months ago, battering financial markets, disrupting trade and travel, and prompting a growing number of countries to impose increasingly tight restrictions to try to slow transmission.
By Tuesday it had sickened 185,067 people in 155 countries and regions, with Italy the hardest hit after China, with close to 28,000 cases, according to the Johns Hopkins Tracker. While most cases of the respiratory disease are mild, it causes severe illness in up to 15% of patients and has already led to more than 7,300 deaths worldwide.
Until now, all the Covid-19 cases in SA have been among people who had travelled internationally. The total stood at 62 on Monday.
Eight of the 23 new cases confirmed since then are people who either have no travel history outside of SA, or no travel history at all, the minister said in a statement. These cases are in Gauteng (4); KwaZulu-Natal (3) and Western Cape (1).
Mkhize said the government would no longer await confirmation from the National Health Laboratory Service and the National Institute for Communicable Diseases before announcing the results of tests conducted by private laboratories.
There had been a debate with clinicians, epidemiologists and virologists about the timing of the public release of the results, with the experts saying there was an ethical obligation to alert patients as soon as their initial results became available, he said. Until now, tests conducted by private laboratories had to be verified by state laboratories before being announced by the minister.
“In our efforts to ensure transparency we have decided to release results as they are submitted by both public and private labs. In instances where our confirmation tests give contrary results, we will inform the public, make reference to that specific result previously announced and give the outcome of the confirmation results,” he said in a statement.
“Whilst we respect that private laboratories have the capacity to test and on their own issue results, our intention and approach is to ensure that there is credibility in the information and results given to the public,” he said
Mkhize said all the South African citizens who were repatriated from Wuhan, China, at the weekend had been tested for Covid-19 and all were negative. They are in quarantine at The Ranch hotel near Polokwane.
The latest confirmed cases of Covid-19 are as follows:
-A 45-year old male who had travelled to Belgium, UK, France and the US
-A 37-year old male who had travelled to the UK
-A 54-year old female who had travelled to the USA
-A 52-year old male who had travelled to the UK
-A 25-year old male who travelled to the UK
-A 52-year old female who had travelled to Italy
-A 59-year old male who travelled to the UK and Dubai
-A 57-year old male who travelled to the USA
-A 60-year old male who travelled to the USA
-A 37-year old female who travelled to Italy and Dubai
-A 21-year old female with no travel history
-A 34-year old male with no international travel history
-A 26-year old female with no international travel history
-A 32-year old female with no international travel history
-A 48-year old male who travelled to Dubai
-A 59-year old female with no international travel history
-A 5-year old male with no international travel history
-A 3-year old male with no international travel history
WESTERN CAPE: 5
-A 3-year old male who travelled to the UK
-A 58-year old male who travelled to the UK and Austria
-A 2-year old male with no international travel
-A 62-year old female who travelled to the UK and Ethiopia
-A 71-year old female who travelled to the UK
Correction: March 23 2020
A previous version of this article said the president declared a national emergency. The state declared a national state of disaster.