The National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) said on Friday that no confirmed case of Covid-19, also known as the coronavirus, has been recorded in South Africa since the global outbreak began in Wuhan in China in December last year.
The NICD, a division of the National Health Laboratory Service, said on Friday that it noted two South Africans tested positive for Covid-19 on the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan.
“We confirm that these citizens are currently being treated in Japan and are in good care. The Department of International Relations and Cooperation and the Department of Health are in constant contact with the individuals and the Japanese authorities.”
According to the Department of Health, Japanese authorities had informed the South African government, through the South African embassy in Tokyo, that there were 12 South African crew members working on board the Diamond Princess cruise ship when it was affected by Covid-19.
“On 25 February 2020, we were informed by the Japanese authorities that two of these South Africans tested positive for Covid-19. They are currently being treated in Japan and the latest reports indicate that they are currently asymptomatic,” the ministry said in a statement.
The NICD said that, to date, there have been no confirmed cases of Covid-19 in South Africa. The institute continues to test for possible cases.
It said 133 people were tested for SARS-CoV-2 and 89 of those met the case definition for people under investigation as of February 28.
“We note the continued spread of Covid-19 in other parts of the world and the decrease in the number of transmissions in China,” said Sinenhlanhla Jimoh, NICD senior communications manager.
“The African region has recorded a new positive case of Covid-19 in Nigeria on February 27. Given these recent developments globally and in Africa, it is not unlikely that we will have importation of Covid-19 to South Africa.
“As such, we continue to monitor trends of Covid-19 globally and in the African region to improve our knowledge of the disease and to continually enhance our surveillance and response.”
The institute welcomed President Cyril Ramaphosa’s decision to repatriate South African citizens from Wuhan in Hubei province, China.
On Thursday, the South African government said it was planning to repatriate all South Africans from Wuhan where the deadly coronavirus originated.
“The Cabinet has decided on this course of action after due consideration of the circumstances and following several requests from the families of South Africans in the city,” the Presidency said in a statement.
It is estimated that there were 199 South Africans in Wuhan, according to the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (Dirco).
“At this stage, 132 of them have expressed the desire to be repatriated.”
The Presidency said none of the individuals had been diagnosed with the virus or exhibited any symptoms.
On Friday, Jimoh said: “The detailed logistics are being finalised, and the NICD is preparing to support the initiative in collaboration with all other involved government departments to ensure the containment of the virus.
“Based on currently available information, none of the affected individuals has been diagnosed with the virus, nor have they exhibited any symptoms of Covid-19. The NICD is working with international partners to learn from their experiences, to keep the public and the repatriated persons well and healthy.”
The Presidency said, upon arrival, they would be placed in quarantine for 21 days as an additional precautionary measure.