Six more cases of coronavirus in South Africa – including the first in the Western Cape – bring the total of confirmed cases to 13.
One of the three patients in Gauteng was reported late yesterday to be in a critical condition.
Yesterday, the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared the COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic. It has swept into at least 114 countries, infected more than 120 000 people and killed more than 4 000.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said: ‘This is the first pandemic caused by coronavirus.
Eight countries — including the United States — are now each reporting more than 1 000 cases of COVID-19, according to the NPR website.
Ghebreyesus said: ‘In the past two weeks, the number of cases of COVID-19 outside China has increased 13-fold, and the number of affected countries has tripled.’
He anticipated infections, deaths and the number of affected countries would climb ‘in the days and weeks ahead’.
In South Africa, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said contact tracing had begun for all the new cases to have arisen in the past few days.
The new cases include patients who were not part of the group – which had travelled together to Italy – identified as South Africa’s first seven Covid-19 cases.
So far, four new cases have been confirmed in Gauteng, one in KwaZulu-Natal and one in the Western Cape.
The Gauteng patients include a 33-year-old woman who travelled to Italy, and returned to SA on 1 March; a couple — a 34-year-old man and a 33-year-old woman – who had travelled together to Germany and returned on 9 March, and a 57-year-old man who had travelled to Austria and Italy and returned home on 9 March.
The KwaZulu-Natal patient is a 40-year-old man who had travelled to Portugal and returned on 7 March, while the Western Cape patient is a 36-year-old man who had travelled to several countries including Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Turkey, returning home on 9 March.
Mkhize said: ‘Some of these patients are already in hospital, while some, specifically those who are asymptomatic, are in self-quarantine.’ More information would be given in due course.
Beyond global anxiety about the health risks, alarm is mounting over the economic implications.