The number of South Africans infected with the coronavirus
has risen to 202, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize confirmed on Friday 20 March.
Mkhize made the announcement while addressing a press conference at Bophelo House in the Free State. The minister was accompanied by Free State Premier Sisi Ntombela and provincial health MEC Montsheng Tsiu.
202 confirmed coronavirus cases on Friday 20 March
After a site visit to Brandwag Primary School earlier in the
day, Mkhize provided a status update of the COVID-19 outbreak on South African
soil. The health minister announced the number of coronavirus cases had jumped
by more than 50 in less than 24 hours, with seven of those cases being reported
in the Free State, a province which, until very recently, had no known infections.
In making his announcement, Mkhize called on South Africans not to panic, echoing sentiments expressed on Thursday evening at a conference with the SA Medical Association (Sama). Mkhize said that while most South Africans were likely to contract the coronavirus, at some point in time, concern was focused on the 20% of infections which would target people with compromised immune systems and underlying medical conditions.
Elaborating on a recent confirmed case concerning a Free
State patient, Mkhize noted that the mother of two is also a health worker in a
private hospital. As such, government is attempting to trace patients that she
may have come into contact with over the last two weeks.
Speaking on government’s inter-ministerial strategy to curb
the spread of the coronavirus, Mkhize said:
“A whole programme of contact tracing has been activated to find other members who attended the religious gathering.
We must mobilise to fight infections. We must flatten the curve. Simple hygiene is key is fighting Covid-19. Please heed the call to follow precautionary measures.”
Mkhize clarifies ‘two-third’
Mkhize also sought clarify his comments about the 60% to 70% infection projection which he noted on Thursday night. The health minister reiterated that, in line with the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) own assessment, two-thirds of all South Africans will likely be infected with COVID-19 at some point in time, saying:
“You need to understand that the virus can go and infect many people… it can go to about 60%. But it doesn’t mean that those people are going to die and it doesn’t mean that all of them are going to get it at the same time.
It means let us be realistic about the fact that this virus is slowly adjusting to be part of the number of viruses which will affect human beings.”
In the wake of Mkhize’s announcement, South African Airways
(SAA) announced a total suspension of all flights to limit the spread of