Minister of Health Dr Zweli Mkhize has confirmed that four more people in South Africa have tested positive for coronavirus (COVID-19), bringing the total confirmed cases in the country to seven.
Mkhize made the revelation during an inter-ministerial committee press briefing on Monday afternoon in Pretoria.
He said all the seven cases appear to have emanated from a single trip to Italy made by a group of 10 people. Nine of them returned to South Africa.
Positive cases quarantined
The first case was identified last week as a 38-year-old man in KwaZulu-Natal. His wife became the third confirmed case on Sunday. A 39-year-old woman from Gauteng tested positive on Saturday.
Mkhize said, “There have been further numbers of people who were part of this team who were found to have been positive. Four of them have now tested positive.”
He added that two of the cases are a couple aged 38 years old in KwaZulu-Natal. They have been put on quarantine, Mkhize said.
The Minister said two males aged 45 and 38 years old also tested positive. They are both in the Pietermaritzburg area in KwaZulu-Natal and have been placed on quarantine.
Contacts to be tested
The results of the last two travellers in the group are being awaited. The 10th traveller proceeded to the Britain, not South Africa.
Mkhize said they were not surprised by the results because members of the group were in close contact during their trip, which involved a skiing expedition in northern Italy.
He added, “What we are focusing on is tracking all the contacts. We have already contacted those who were located two seats ahead and two seats behind [during] the flight of the first patient.
“The approach on this matter is that if anyone is suspected, we test them and know who the contacts are. Once the person becomes positive, we then test the contacts and when the contacts are positive, we treat each one of them as the centre of the circle. Then we’ll test each one’s contacts until we get to a point where we break the circle of positive results.”
Mkhize said the government is “comfortable” that it is a limited case of individuals involved so far because they are known to have been in the same group.
However, he said the government remains watchful because new cases could come from any part of the world other than China.
Authorities are also watching out for a situation where there is “local transmission,” Mkhize added.