The National Department of Health has announced South Africa’s first confirmed coronavirus case on Thursday afternoon.

According to the health department’s statement, the patient — a 38-year-old man from KwaZulu-Natal — travelled to Italy with his wife and returned to the country this past weekend. Whilst the group that travelled with the patient are being searched for by medical professionals so that they can conduct tests, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize urges the public to not let health anxieties and fear spiral out of control. 

Mkhize says an emergency team has landed in KwaZulu-Natal.

“We are going to be meeting with clinicians, virologists and epidemiologists in the next three to four days, to look at how to prepare for resilience of our system in the future,” he notes.

According to the most recent National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) statement, the identification of a single imported case in a traveller from an area with widespread cases “does not mean that COVID-19 is currently spreading in South African communities”. The risk to the general community of acquiring the virus remains low.

[WATCH] The NICD tells us if  South Africa prepared for the coronavirus

‘80% who contract the disease recover’ — WHO

“Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that can cause illnesses such as the common cold, severe acute respiratory syndrome and Middle East respiratory syndrome,” according to the United States-based research organisation, Mayo Clinic.

In his address to Parliament, Mkhize says that the patient presented with symptoms such as fever, headache and sore throat. 

The World Health Organisation (WHO) lists fever, tiredness, dry cough, nasal congestion, runny nose, sore throat or diarrhea as some of the symptoms of Covid-19. It says that about 80% of  people who contract the disease recover from it without needing special treatment.

Globally, 57 258  out of 96 739 people who were infected with Covid-19 have recovered and been discharged. The global mortality rate stands at 3.4%, according to the WHO, meaning for every 100, less than four people who contracted the virus, across the world, have died. 

The elderly, and people living with high blood pressure, heart problems or diabetes, are more likely to be impacted by the virus. Those who are immuno-compromised are also more likely to be susceptible to Covid-19

Experts have previously told Health-e News that South Africans should not panic, but rather prepare themselves to prevent the spread of the disease.

“It is important that we must not allow panic to set in,” Mkhize says. He also confirms that two South African citizens, who were part of the Diamond Princess Cruise and tested positive for coronavirus, have fully recovered.

Public hospitals ready

Meanwhile, the public health sector has designated 10 hospitals as treatment centres for the Covid-19 — one in each province and two in Gauteng. 

“We dropped [the number of treatment centres] from 11 — because of concerns around Tembisa [Hospital]. We are going to be upgrading others so they can be part of that,” Mkhize says, while briefing the media. 

He continues: “Whoever is brought into our facilities — we are fairly capable of managing them.” 

Due to the first South African case being identified, the General Public Hotline Number for coronavirus information (0800 029 999) has now increased its weekday operating hours to a 24-hour hotline. – Health-e News