Search on for passengers on flight with infected SA man

This is the first confirmed case of coronavirus in SA.
This is the first confirmed case of coronavirus in SA.
Image: Alexander Raths/

Health officials are tracking down a number of travellers who were on the same flight as the SA man who has now tested positive for the deadly coronavirus.

Health minister Zweli Mkhize yesterday confirmed that a 38-year-old man who recently went to Italy with his wife and eight other locals had tested positive for the Covid-19 virus. The minister said the man landed at OR Tambo International Airport and took another flight to Durban.

The man visited his doctor after complaining of fever, a headache, sore throat and a cough. A swab taken tested positive for the virus.

Mkhize said the man had been "self-isolating" since then.

"The couple also has two children. The Emergency Operating Centre (EOC) has identified the contacts by interviewing the patient and doctor.

"The tracer team has been deployed to KwaZulu-Natal with epidemiologists and clinicians from NICD [National Institute of Communicable Diseases]. The doctor has been self-isolated as well," he said.

It is understood that the mother informed parents whose schoolchildren are in the same class as hers, that her husband had tested positive and that they were quarantined in their house.

In the message, she shared that neither she nor the children displayed any symptoms and that they would be tested.

She said her husband was in constant contact with health experts from the NICD, which is managing the virus.

President Cyril Ramaphosa called on the public not to panic as the country was ready to deal with the virus.

"We did this, in terms of revealing this immediately, so that there should not be panic. South Africans should not panic. We should be alert so that if people either show signs of some of the symptoms they should immediately be able to get medical assistance and all medical care people are informed that their alertness in identifying this disease must be at much higher level," Ramaphosa said.

The epidemic has so far claimed the lives of 3000 people around the world, while there are more than 90000 confirmed cases.

This is the first confirmed case of coronavirus in SA.

Mkhize said according to the World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines, some of the people who were seated around him in the plane would also have to be tested.

The minister said they would track down the man, place him in quarantine, adding that they would also be mapping the seating arrangements on these flights and those people would be tracked down and tested.

"If you got someone who would have an infection or who we suspect and want to test, we actually test those who are in the row in front and rows behind and we count the number of seats around the individual in terms of the scientific probability of a cross-infection," Mkhize said.

Coronavirus, which was first reported in Wuhan, China, is from a family of respiratory viruses that cause the common cold and can lead to severe diseases like pneumonia. The virus can spread through coughs or sneezing from an infected person or from touching an object that they touched. According to the NICD, it can stay in the body for 14 days before showing any symptoms. - Additional reporting Lwandile Bhengu and Orrin Singh

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