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Infectious Diseases

Updated 15 March 2020

Coronavirus in SA: President confirms first local transmission in the country

President Cyril Ramaphosa says that South Africa has its first confirmed case of a local transmission of the new coronavirus.

President Cyril Ramaphosa on Sunday confirmed that South Africa has its first confirmed case of a local transmission of the new coronavirus.

Previously, all the confirmed cases in the country involved people who had returned to South Africa from travelling overseas.

During an address to the nation, the president also said total confirmed cases were now at 61.

In his address, the president also mentioned a Wits University student had tested positive for the virus.

Earlier on Sunday, News24 reported the Department of Health as saying that the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) was conducting a "confirmatory test" on the specimen of a Wits University student who had tested positive for the Covid-19 virus.

On Sunday, the tertiary institution said the medical student had tested positive for the virus, despite not showing any symptoms of the virus.

The university’s senior executive made the announcement in an email circulated to staff and students on Sunday. 

The student had been in self-isolation since Wednesday – a precaution taken by the university while they waited on his test results.

The student was tested last week, and results came back positive on Sunday afternoon.

The department said the test had been conducted by a private laboratory.

NICD to confirm

"As previously announced by the Minister of Health, on receiving positive results from a private laboratory, the NICD will conduct a retest in order to confirm and validate the results before they are released," the statement read.

The department added that it would make a formal announcement once the NICD's results were available.

The Wits senior executive team said the student was "asymptomatic and attended classes last Monday and Tuesday, without knowledge that the student had contracted the virus".

The university's statement added that the institution had since taken an immediate decision to cancel all contact classes for the Graduate Medical Programme 1 (MMBBCh 3 classes). The programme will continue online.

The university has also instructed students in the programme to immediately go into self-isolation for 14 days.

"The Faculty is personally reaching out to each of the 350 students who could be affected. They will receive the full support of the Faculty, including the requisite monitoring and testing," the executive team said.

Dean of Students Jerome September would be making arrangements for students in residences who required self-isolation.

More to follow

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