Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize has said the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) is in the process of validating two possible cases of internal transmission of coronavirus in South Africa.
Mkhize made the revelation during a briefing by several Ministers on the government’s response to the outbreak on Monday in Pretoria.
He said, “We also wish to mention that there are two cases of local transmission which have been presented to the NICD. These are under investigation.”
‘Source has to be located’
The Minister added, “Those cases of internal transmission will only be properly announced once we’ve got all the information, because it is not enough to just say [someone] was tested positive by a private laboratory – it has to be validated.
“On top of that, you need to go into the history to try and locate the exact source. Once we get that information, we would update you in a statement.”
Mkhize said South Africa has now recorded a total of 62 confirmed cases, adding that the rise from one case to 50 cases in just 10 days was “explosive.”
Gauteng now has seven additional cases, Western Cape two, Limpopo one, and Mpumalanga one. All of them travelled abroad recently, including to several European countries as well as the United States, India, Canada and Mexico.
114 repatriated from China, 4 remained
Mkhize also confirmed that 114 South Africans have been repatriated from Wuhan, China, and are now quarantined at the Ranch Resort in Polokwane, Limpopo.
However, he said four citizens who had requested repatriation remained in self-quarantine in Wuhan because they “displayed some symptoms.”
“It must be highlighted that this does not mean that they have been infected, but this was done to mitigate the risk of having an infected person on the same flight with more than 100 others and thus exposing them,” the Minister added.
Those who arrived at the Ranch Resort have also been tested again as a precautionary measure and the medical teams are waiting for the results.
Risk of internal transmission
Mkhize further said the risk of internal transmission “is now setting in” and would create a “new dynamic” once the virus starts spreading in taxis and buses.
He said, “The reality is this, for now, individuals that have been infected thus far are people who can afford going on holiday abroad or they travel for business. Those individuals also have accommodation to self-quarantine.
“However, when this outbreak starts affecting our poor communities where families do not have enough rooms or spaces to quarantine those infected, we will experience a crisis.”
Mkhize said provincial governments have therefore been called upon to identify and prepare quarantine facilities as soon as possible.
He added that the government may need to escalate its interventions to contain the spread of the virus if needs be.
“We cannot rule out the need, in the future, to actually impose a state of emergency,” he said.