LIVE: Our guide to the coronavirus outbreak in South Africa

How many infections are there in South Africa? 

As at 2.30pm on Friday March 13 2020, South Africa had 24 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus

Health Minister Zweli Mkhize has noted that there are more positive results that have been identified, but the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) and the National Health Laboratory Service are still in the process of verifying these results.

“To ensure accuracy and avoid unnecessary panic, I wish to emphasise to the media and the public to await and rely on our formal announcements…” he said in a statement.

We will update this number with government data as it becomes available. 

Where are these infections? 

The confirmed South African cases are in Gauteng, Mpumalanga, KwaZulu-Natal and the Western Cape. 

Are there any confirmed reports of local transmissions yet? 


All the new cases are people who have recently travelled overseas and, although most of them are over the age of 39, one of the cases is a 21-year-old who had been to Italy.

On Thursday, Mkhize retracted earlier reports of South Africa’s first local transmission. The Free State case was tested by a private laboratory and, on verification by the NICD, the case was found to be negative. 

As of Friday March 13, the NICD had conducted 924 tests for the virus.

It’s also important to note that South Africa still has no reported cases of death resulting from Covid-19.

What’s it looking like in the rest of the world? 

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), by Thursday four new regions had reported cases of Covid-19 — French Polynesia, Turkey, Honduras and Côte d’Ivoire. This brought the number of confirmed cases globally up to 125 048, with 4 613 deaths.

WHO has advised that, “if you are not in an area where COVID-19 is spreading, or have not travelled from an area where the virus is spreading, or have not been in contact with an infected patient, your risk of infection is low”. 

So how do you protect yourself? 

On its website, the WHO notes that, “the disease can spread from person to person through small droplets from the nose or mouth, which are spread when a person with Covid-19 coughs or exhales. Other people then catch Covid-19 by touching these objects or surfaces, then touching their eyes, nose or mouth. People can also catch Covid-19 if they breathe in droplets from a person with Covid-19 who coughs out or exhales droplets.”

This is why it is important to stay more than one metre away from a person who is sick, the organisation advises.

WHO lists a number of measures that can be taken to reduce your risk of infection. These include:

  • Regularly and thoroughly clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water;
  • Maintain at least a one metre distance between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing;
  • Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth;
  • Make sure you, and the people around you, follow good respiratory hygiene. This means covering your mouth and nose with your bent elbow or tissue when you cough or sneeze. Then dispose of the used tissue immediately; and
  • Stay home if you feel unwell. If you have a fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical attention and call in advance. 

People who are infected may show no symptoms, so it is advised that people avoid crowds during the outbreak.

And when should you seek medical attention? 

The NICD has advised that if a person develops symptoms of Covid-19, and they have reason to believe they have been in contact with someone who has the virus, they are to self-isolate immediately and implement measures to prevent transmission.

“ In cases where it is difficult to assess the onset of symptoms, for example in young children or the elderly, self-quarantine for 14 days after return from international travel may be considered as a precautionary measure, the NICD’s website notes

“In instances where the risk to life and livelihood is considered high, institutions or companies may consider asking persons to self-quarantine for a period of 14 days.”

A toll-free public hotline (0800 029 999) has also been set up for people who feel sick with a fever, cough or have difficulty breathing.

Public sector testing is free of charge.

According to the NICD, treatment is supportive, because there is no specific antiviral treatment available. Antibiotics do not treat viral infections, but they may be required if a bacterial secondary infection develops.



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