President Cyril Ramaphosa addresses the nation following a special cabinet meeting on matters relating to the COVID-19 epidemic at the Union Buildings in Pretoria, on March 15, 2020. Picture: Phill Magakoe/AFP
President Cyril Ramaphosa addresses the nation following a special cabinet meeting on matters relating to the COVID-19 epidemic at the Union Buildings in Pretoria, on March 15, 2020. Picture: Phill Magakoe/AFP

The number of confirmed cases of Covid-19 have risen to 150, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced on Thursday.

“That for us is concerning because it already tells us ... that it could start rising in greater numbers which then reinforces our message about social distancing,” Ramaphosa said.

Confirmed cases are up by 34 from 116 announced by health minister Zweli Mkhize on Wednesday.

The health department on Thursday said two of the new cases were local transmissions.

There were 14 cases of local transmission on Wednesday, from the eight announced the day before.

Mkhize on Thursday said there were 15 new cases in Gauteng with one local transmission, 15 in the Western Cape also with one local transmission, three in KwaZulu-Natal and one in Mpumalanga.

He said the Free State now had its first confirmed cases, but that some of the patients were still being informed while others had already been taken into quarantine by the provincial government.

The number of these cases would be disclosed on Friday.

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 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.

Regulations, which saw the limitation of citizens rights in a time of national disaster, were gazetted on Thursday.

The regulations, among others, enforce the prohibition of gatherings of more than 100 people; the closure of schools;  the sale of alcohol from 6pm; and limits the number of patrons in restaurants and bars where liquor is sold to 50.

They also criminalise the refusal of medical examination, treatment, isolation and quarantine; and the intentional sharing of false information about the virus.

Covid-19 has raced around the world since it emerged in China four 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 Thursday it had sickened 227,743 people in 159 countries and regions, with Italy the hardest hit after China, with more than 35,700 cases, according to the Johns Hopkins Tracker.

Mkhize said there were now recoveries of previously reported Covid-19 cases in SA and the department was conducting further confirmation tests and medical examinations before they inform the public of the numbers of recoveries.

He said he held an urgent meeting with CEOs of private laboratories that are performing Covid-19 tests on Thursday where it was acknowledged that to allow for consistent reporting of cases, all information will be sent to the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) in real time.

There would be collaboration and proper compilation of the results, and thereafter it will be released to the public.

In the breakdown of infections, the health department stated that the contact details of some of the confirmed cases were not included on the laboratory form.

Mkhize said this put more pressure on the NICD and provinces to track down the private doctor that the patient consulted to obtain the patient’s details.

The meeting with private laboratories therefore decided that the minister must plead with all doctors to complete the forms comprehensively so that all the patient’s information is immediately available, he said.

This would assist in ensuring that the confirmed results were also analysed in terms of geomapping, to facilitate urgent tracing of contacts of the patient.

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