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18 people in quarantine after contact with SA's first coronavirus patient

National health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize met school officials and parents from the Hilton area on Friday.
National health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize met school officials and parents from the Hilton area on Friday.
Image: REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/File Photo

A total of 18 people have been asked to “self-quarantine” as a result of making contact with SA's first confirmed coronavirus patient.

This was announced by KwaZulu-Natal MEC for health Nomagugu Simelane-Zulu during a media briefing at Cowan House preparatory school on Friday.

The briefing came after Simelane-Zulu, national minister of health Zweli Mkhize, education MEC Kwazi Mshengu, the school's managers and other stakeholders met parents at the school after a 38-year-old Hilton father of two tested positive for the virus after returning to SA from Italy on Sunday.

The National Institute for Communicable Diseases confirmed the result to him on Thursday and he is now in an isolation ward at a local hospital. His wife and two children, who attend Cowan House school, are quarantined at their home.  

“At this point we have established that there are 18 people who have been in close contact with that person and all 18 have been spoken to and have been tested as of last night [Thursday] and this morning. They have been requested to self-quarantine while we await the results,” said Simelane-Zulu.

The man caught the virus while on a trip to Italy with his wife and eight other people. Mkhize said the man arrived back in Durban on Sunday via an Emirates flight from Dubai.

Cowan House school closed on Friday after hearing that a parent had tested positive. Mkhize said he met the school board and other parents to reassure them that there was no need for the school to be closed or for the community to panic.

He said NICD officials had identified several people who had come into immediate contact with the Hilton man.

“At the moment the direct contacts are our concern. The contacts of contacts are not our immediate concern,” said Mkhize.

Mkhize commended Dr Robyn Reed —  the general practitioner who saw the patient and recommended that he go for a swab test as he had visited an infected destination — for immediately alerting the relevant authorities after seeing the patient.

Mkhize dismissed media reports that defence force members had refused to participate in an evacuation plan to bring South Africans back home from Wuhan in China. The soldiers were reportedly reluctant to make the trip because of the virus.

“We are not aware of it, I have spoken to the chief of defence and the minister and these are lies,” he said.

Mkhize urged South Africans not to panic or spread false news about the virus. He recommended that people safeguard themselves by washing their hands and keeping a distance from people who are ill.

The minister and his team will be visiting Pietermaritzburg's Grey's Hospital, the designated hospital to treat the virus in the area, later in the day.