Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said more than 300 people have been tested for the coronavirus, while another 18, have been quarantined, 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.
Zweli Mkhizw was speaking at the Cowan House Preparatory School in Hilton, KwaZulu-Natal, where government officials and the National Institute for Communicable Diseases met with parents whose children attend the school.
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.
During the meeting, Mkhize denounced fake news, fake social media posts and alarmists who have sent panic throughout South Africa.
“I would like to ask our people to desist from spreading fake news. We are now getting voice notes, I have seen reporters printing stories when they don’t have formal confirmation from [the] government.”
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.
He encouraged those who had contact with the only diagnosed patient from Hilton to come forward.
“Those who were in the vicinity of that individual when they came [via] Dubai, this is not to cause panic, we would encourage them to come forward so we can test them and treat them.”
Mkhize said not everyone who had contact with the patient would be sick.
“We don’t expect everyone who had contact with him to be infected, because the virus moves through water droplets that can only travel around 1.5m.
“There must not be any misunderstanding of information. We have just one case. One, nothing more than that,” he added.
NICD consultant pathologist Kerrigan McCarthy conceded the hotline had been inundated with calls and said this would be remedied.
Several media houses, including News24, made Mkhize aware that the lines were not working after a public outcry.
“My team is working to get more people to man telephone lines. Indeed, the hotlines have been swamped with phone calls.”
Mkhize said the 18 who were in the immediate vicinity of the infected man were being well-taken care of.
“They are all rounded up. They are 18 close contacts and all of them have been spoken to, tested and been requested to self-quarantine.”