From repatriation plans to a third case and school closure: a week of coronavirus in SA

09 March 2020 - 12:34 By Cebelihle Bhengu
South Africa is training medical professionals to deal with coronavirus cases in the country.
South Africa is training medical professionals to deal with coronavirus cases in the country.

The wife of a man found to have SA's first case of coronavirus was on Sunday confirmed as the country's third case by health minister Zweli Mkhize.

Mkhize held a press conference on Sunday and provided tips about how locals can protect themselves against the virus.

SA has in the past few weeks prepared for a possible outbreak, with Mkhize assuring the nation that its experts were properly trained to deal with Covid-19.

Here's a timeline of how everything has unfolded over the past week:

Repatriation of Wuhan-based South Africans

The national health department and government held a press conference on Monday last week, announcing the decision to repatriate Wuhan-based South Africans amid the coronavirus outbreak. The health minister said this was in response to requests made to the government by the China-based locals.

The minister said the individuals will not be integrated into society after arrival as they will be quarantined at a secret location for 21 days.

Roxanne Rawlins, a South African citizen in Wuhan, gives us a look at living in lockdown in the epicentre of the deadly coronavirus in the Chinese city. Rawlins is one of 184 SA citizens WHO are awaiting repatriation by the SA government.

Repatriations at an advanced stage 

The military last Tuesday confirmed that plans to evacuate locals based in China were well under way. The department of defence said the evacuees would be required to adhere to strict quarantine rules, and the repatriation team would include members from the departments of health and international relations.

SA health experts prepare for outbreak 

On the same day, the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) said the country's health experts would be trained on how to best deal with the coronavirus should there be an outbreak in the country.

The institute said while there were no confirmed cases in SA at the time, it was on high alert as more African countries were affected, with Senegal also recently confirming its first positive case.

First SA coronavirus case confirmed 

Last Thursday, the health minister confirmed a 38-year old man from KwaZulu-Natal had tested positive for the virus after he travelled to Italy for a holiday with his wife. The man returned on March 1 and consulted a doctor a few days later after complaining about a headache and fever. He is under quarantine.

Second coronavirus case 

A 39-year old woman from Gauteng tested positive for the virus on Saturday. She was in direct contact with the first case and was among the 10 travellers who were in Italy.

Mkhize said the woman would be placed under quarantine at a Gauteng health facility which was identified as ready to help patients.

Third case of coronavirus 

The wife of the first man who tested positive for the virus was confirmed to be SA's third case on Sunday. The health minister said the couple's two children had tested negative.

In his statement he said the department would announce the results of six other locals who are part of the 10 who travelled to Italy.

Zweli Mkhize says the virus is expanding

Addressing the media after the third case on Sunday, Mkhize warned South Africans that they must not only look to China as the possible feeder of the virus as all cases so far detected in SA originated from Italy.

With the virus having spread across the globe, he said travellers coming in from any country could carry the virus.

He also warned against spreading false information about Covid-19, saying it needed to be demystified so people were not scared of it but were better informed.

School closure 

Grayston Preparatory School in Morningside, Sandton was closed on Monday as concerns mounted that one of its teachers may have contracted the virus. According to eNCA and SAfm, the teacher had been in direct contact with some locals who recently travelled to Italy. The teacher reportedly has not shown any symptoms yet.