The Cabinet will hold a special meeting on the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak on Sunday, Minister in the Presidency Jackson Mthembu has announced.
This comes after Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said on Thursday that the total number of confirmed cases in South Africa has risen to 17.
At a post-Cabinet briefing on Thursday, Mthembu said President Cyril Ramaphosa will also update political parties represented in Parliament as well as church leaders on COVID-19.
Caution against false information
Mthembu said, “We appeal to all to respect the privacy of CODVID-19 patients and their families.
“We also strongly caution against the dissemination of any false information related to the virus so to prevent the spread of fear, stigma and discrimination within our society.”
He said South Africans being repatriated from China as a result of the outbreak are expected in the country on Friday, after which they will be placed in “strict quarantine” for 14-21 days.
“Once the quarantine period ends, and tests confirm no underlying COVID-19 virus infection of our compatriots, they will be released back into their respective communities,” Mthembu added.
1st case of local transmission
In an earlier statement, Mkhize confirmed that South Africa has had its first case of local transmission of COVID-19 in the Free State.
The 32-year-old male came into contact with a Chinese businessman, the Minister said.
The three other latest cases include a 38-year-old man in Durban who lives in Turkey. He arrived in South Africa on 7 March to visit his family after travelling to the UK.
A 27-year-old female is Mpumalanga’s first case. She travelled to the United States and returned on 7 March.
A 43-year-old male in Johannesburg has also tested positive. He travelled to New York via Dubai and returned on 8 March.
Mkhize said, “At this stage, all patients are in self-quarantine and have mild to moderate symptoms. They are also on symptomatic treatment.
“Our tracing teams are now making a list and have started contacting individuals that have been identified as these patients’ contacts.”
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has now declared the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic, which is defined as a worldwide spread of a new disease.
UPDATE: Minister Mkhize has since withdrawn the case of local transmission involving the Free State man, who has since tested negative. Mkhize apologised to the public at a press briefing on Thursday evening.