First coronavirus case confirmed in SA — What you need to know & social media responses

06 March 2020 - 06:55 By Cebelihle Bhengu
Health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize gave an update on the spread of coronavirus to South Africa on Thursday, March 5 2020.
Health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize gave an update on the spread of coronavirus to South Africa on Thursday, March 5 2020.
Image: Anthony Molyneaux

South Africans have been thrust into panic mode since health minister, Dr Zweli Mkhize, announced the first case of coronavirus in the country on Thursday.

Here's what you need to know:


A 38-year-old man from KwaZulu-Natal had travelled to Italy and returned to the country on Sunday. On Wednesday he consulted a private general practitioner after noticing symptoms including headache, fever and a sore throat and has been in isolation since.

The National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) confirmed the country's first Covid-19 case after the man's test results came back positive.

Raising awareness

During a media briefing in Cape Town on Thursday, the minister said he would be consulting different structures in communities, such as church and sporting organisations, the hospitality industry and international conference organisers, on how to prevent further spread of the virus.

“We just want to bring the awareness that there might be a situation developing in the country and therefore we need to work together and get their advice and if they have got any specific suggestions, we need to share information with them about where do they see the risks and what suggestions do they have.”

Screening of incoming travellers 

The minister responded to concerns about the man's condition not having been detected at OR Tambo airport and King Shaka airport by saying he had not shown any signs or symptoms upon arrival.

This means any tests done would not have confirmed the virus, as he only developed symptoms three days after his return.

Quelling further spread

The ministry deployed a team to track down all individuals who have been in contact with the man, in an effort to prevent any further spread of the virus. The search will extend to people who sat close to the man on his flight from Italy and connecting flights.

No need to panic 

SA will not yet be putting in place any restrictions, such as closing down schools and limiting travel, as there is no serious spread of the virus yet.

“We're not at that level where we're closing down the schools. We're taking precautions in the case of one instance where someone has been found to be positive.”

Social media responses

Here's how South Africans responded to the news:

Health minister Zweli Mkhize confirmed the first case of the coronavirus in South Africa on March 5 2020. Speaking at a media briefing in Cape Town, the minister said that a 38-year-old man who tested positive for Covid-19 is a South African citizen who travelled through OR Tambo International Airport and took a connecting flight to KwaZulu-Natal. For more on this story: