The Department of Health has confirmed that two South Africans who worked in the Japanese cruise ship Diamond Princess have tested positive for coronavirus.
In a statement on Friday, the Department said Japanese authorities informed the South African embassy in Tokyo that 12 South Africans were working on board the cruise ship when it was affected by the virus, also known as COV-19.
“On 25 February 2020, we were informed by the Japanese authorities that two of these South Africans tested positive for COVID-19. They are currently being treated in Japan and the latest reports indicate that they are currently asymptomatic,” it said.
Patients to be treated in Japan
The Department said it is “most appropriate” that the confirmed cases should be treated in Japan until they fully recover and are no longer contagious before they can travel.
It added, “For the remaining 10, they will be permitted to disembark the ship as per the instructions of their employer after they test negative for coronavirus, be subjected to a further 14-day quarantine in Japan, then further tested thereafter to determine if they may be cleared for travel.
“South Africa will continue to monitor the situation closely and maintain contact with the government of Japan in order to keep the public informed.”
3,700 people were aboard the ship when it arrived in Yokohama on 1 February. When it emerged that a passenger who had earlier disembarked at a stopover in Tokyo had tested positive for coronavirus, it was put on a quarantine period that ended on 19 February.
Ramaphosa orders repatriation from Wuhan
705 of those aboard the ship have tested positive so far and have been taken off for treatment. A phased disembarkation is currently being implemented for the rest of the passengers.
The news comes hours after President Cyril Ramaphosa directed the repatriation of 132 South Africans from the city of Wuhan in China, the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak.
According to a Presidency statement on Thursday night, the 132 South Africans are not infected and “expressed a desire to be repatriated.”
“Upon arrival in SA, they will be placed in quarantine for 21 days as an additional precautionary measure,” the Presidency said.
On Friday morning, it also emerged that Nigeria became the first country in sub-Saharan African to have a confirmed case of coronavirus.
The Nigerian health ministry said the confirmed case is an Italian citizen who works in Nigeria and returned from Milan earlier this week. The patient is “clinically stable with no serious symptoms,” it added.
In its latest update on Wednesday, the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) said no case of coronavirus has been confirmed in South Africa so far.