The number of confirmed cases of the Covid-19 coronavirus in South Africa has surged to 116. This was confirmed by the Department of Health on Wednesday morning as 31 new cases were reported.
It comes just 10 hours since the department released a statement late on Tuesday night that the number of confirmed cases of the contagious virus had risen by 23 cases to 85.
Wednesday’s latest update represents a significant increase of 54 new cases since President Cyril Ramaphosa addressed the nation on Sunday evening, when he declared several “state of disaster” measures to try to curtail the spread of the virus locally.
Following the health department’s update on Wednesday, the president also held a meeting in Cape Town with leaders of all political parties represented in Parliament on the global coronavirus pandemic.
Watch: President Cyril Ramaphosa and other political leaders address a media briefing on Convid-19
There have been no reported deaths or recoveries related to Covid-19 in SA, however the global death toll is set to top the 8 000 mark this week. The total number of people infected with the virus globally is also set to surpass the 200 000 mark.
In the statement released on Tuesday night by Health Minister Zweli Mkhize, the department noted that 14 of the new confirmed cases were in Gauteng, five were in the Western Cape and four were in KwaZulu-Natal. Wednesday morning’s statement noted that there were 16 further cases in Gauteng, 10 in the Western Cape, three in KwaZulu-Natal and two in Mpumalanga.
The latest announcements reveals that Gauteng – SA’s economic hub and most populous province – is becoming the epicentre of the virus in the country.
Yet again, most of the new cases are related to people who have travelled overseas, largely to Europe and the US. However, the government’s travel ban on several European countries as well as the US, China, South Korea and Iran comes into effect as of today (Wednesday, March 18).
#COVID19SouthAfrica Update. As of this morning, 18 March 2020, South Africa now has 116 confirmed cases of #COVID19. We confirm that there has been an increase of 31 new cases from the 17 March update. pic.twitter.com/0Lv6WAfaXe
— NICD (@nicd_sa) March 18, 2020
Covid-19, which was declared a global pandemic by the World Health Organisation last week, has wreaked havoc on stock markets across the world with several nations, including China, Italy, Spain and France instituting lockdowns on public life in an attempt to curb the spread of the virus.
The health minister said in his statement on Tuesday it “is notable that there are eight cases of local transmission”. With six further local transmission cases reported on Wednesday, this number now stands at 14.
One of the original eight local transmission cases is a two-year-old boy from the Western Cape, making him the youngest person to have contracted Covid-19 in SA. With the increase in local transmission, the number of Covid-19 cases involving children between the ages of three and five years in the country, has increased from four to six. This includes another two-year-old in the Western Cape.
“I must inform the public that there was a debate with clinicians, epidemiologists [and] virologists on when we, as a government, must release results to the public,” Mkhize noted in the Tuesday night statement.
“These experts raised an issue of an ethical obligation to immediately alert patients as soon as the results become available. This therefore means that by the time a confirmation test is conducted in public laboratories, patients would have been notified of their initial results,” he added.
“This clarification is important because as a government, we have announced to the public that all positive results will be verified through our public laboratories and the NICD [National Institute for Communicable Diseases],” he pointed out.
“In our efforts to ensure transparency, we have decided to release results as they are submitted by both public and private labs. In instances where our confirmation tests give contrary results, we will inform the public, make reference to that specific result previously announced, and give the outcome of the confirmation results,” Mkhize said.
“While we respect that private laboratories have the capacity to test and on their own issue results, our intention and approach is to ensure that there is credibility in the information and results given to the public,” he added.