As health minister Zweli Mkhize confirmed that seven people have tested positive for coronavirus in SA, he revealed that they had been in contact with more than 110 people.

Mkhize said they were now tracing the people so that they can be tested.

The four new cases announced yesterday are all in KwaZulu-Natal and are of:

– a 38-year-old woman who had direct contact with 16 people and has been quarantined;
– a 38-year-old man who had 15 contacts and is the husband of the woman mentioned above;
– a 45-year-old man who had 12 contacts; and
– a 38-year-old man from Pietermaritzburg who had mild symptoms and had been in direct contact with 21 people.

Mkhize said the four had all been part of a group of 10 who had travelled to Milan, Italy. Nine people have since returned to the country.

“As you would remember, the contacts are [based] on memory. If we find some new contacts we will update. We still have others that we have tested. As I’ve said, there are many more contacts that are being tested,” Mkhize said.

He said they were trusting that those who have been placed in self-quarantine or self-isolation would be honest enough to not risk infecting others and that the positive cases were honest about people whom they had been in contact with.

“At the moment we have no basis to doubt that when someone has been told that a matter affecting their health requires them to stay at home on a quarantine that they have not done so,” Mkhize said.

He added: “We also ask them to disclose their whereabouts, where they’ve been to, who they spoke to, who they had sat together with so that we can track those people.”

The other three people who tested positive were:

– a 38-year-old man who had 21 contacts;
– the man’s 38-year-old wife who had 15 contacts; and
– a 38-year-old who had 15 contacts as well.

Mkhize said 300 people have been tested for Covid-19 so far with most results coming back negative.

National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) official Kerrigan McCarthy said because the 10 had travelled together, it appeared that they had contracted the virus from the same source.

“They were members of the same party who travelled to this particular resort. It’s highly likely that they had what we call a common source exposure,” McCarthy said.

“There were two who tested positive but did not have symptoms but among those who had symptoms they began within a period of a week. We know that the range of the incubation period is from two and-a-half to 12 days.”

As it stands, there is no cure for coronavirus or direct treatment. If a person tests positive health officials only get to treat symptoms caused by the virus such as coughing, sneezing or any other influenza-related diseases.

Ministers in charge of seven departments yesterday met to discuss, among other things, instituting travel bans to countries identified as epicentres of the virus as well as the possible cancellation of sporting events and tourism sites.

Mkhize said they had decided to take their suggestions to President Cyril Ramaphosa and his cabinet to make the final decision.

Countries that have been viewed as the epicentre or where there are a high number of infections are China, Italy and Iran.

“We are discussing various issues that are of concern. Among those are the approaches that have to be taken in dealing with people who are travelling from areas of high transmission where we have already seen people who are infected,” Mkhize said.


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