First coronavirus case in South Africa

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South Africa confirmed its first case of coronavirus a man who visited Italy and the health minister warned it would test the country’s health system.

“The National Institute for Communicable Diseases confirmed a suspected case of COVID-19 tested positive,” the health ministry said.

“The patient is a 38-year-old male who travelled to Italy with his wife. They were part of a group of 10 who arrived back in South Africa on 1 March,” it said.

The coronavirus – COVID-19, as the new strain is called – is thought to have originated in a market selling wildlife in Wuhan late last year. It infected about 80 000 people and killed more than 3 000, mostly in China.

“I think we need to be upfront about it.  Our system will be tested by the impact of coronavirus,” Health Minister Zweli Mkhize told parliament.

Last week President Cyril Ramaphosa ordered repatriation of nearly 200 citizens from Wuhan. Mkhize said they will return home in the next few days. He added South Africa was working with the World Health Organisation (WHO) and African institutions to assist in diagnosing the virus across the region.

The health ministry said the patient, in KwaZulu-Natal, self-isolated since Tuesday after consulting a doctor over symptoms of coughing, a sore throat, headaches and fever.

The doctor has self-quarantined.

Health officials said a “tracer team” was deployed to the province with epidemiologists and clinicians to further investigate the infection.