Five things you need to know from health minister Zweli Mkhize’s address about coronavirus

Health minister Zweli Mkhize said if a person suspects they have contracted the coronavirus, they should immediately self-isolate while tests are conducted to avoid the possibility of infecting other people.
Image: Simphiwe Nkwali/Sowetan

Health minister Zweli Mkhize on Sunday held a media briefing after a third confirmed case of coronavirus in SA. The health ministry confirmed the man was in direct contact with SA’s first individual who tested positive for the virus.

Here are five key takeouts from the minister’s press conference:

Locals in China are not affected

The minister said his department had not been informed of any China-based South Africans who have contracted the virus, despite the country having reported more than 80,000 positive cases. He said SA can learn much from how China handled the outbreak as the number of people contracting it is now on the decline.

“China has dealt with the situation such that there are fewer now who are getting sick.”

China is no longer the only threat 

The minister cautioned that Covid-19 was spreading beyond China as a number of African countries, including Nigeria and Senegal, confirmed cases contracted through travellers from Italy and France, among others.

“During the early coronavirus outbreak, only five countries outside China were affected, but this is no longer the case as 104 countries are currently affected. This means the virus is expanding beyond China.”


Since the outbreak in SA, the health ministry has insisted on good hygiene as a form of protection against the virus. Mkhize said the virus spreads through what has been termed “droplet infection.”

“When you talk, sneeze and cough you release droplets of liquid from the mouth. It also comes from tears and if you inhale the cough, you will get the virus. Alternatively, it will be on your hands and if you l touch somebody it can spread to the next person.”

He urged people to regularly wash their hands.

How Covid-19 is contracted 

The minister cautioned that standing near a person who has the virus increases the chances of contracting it. He advised standing more than a metre away from individuals who are showing signs, which include coughing, to reduce chances of contracting the virus.

Testing for the virus 

Mkhize said for people to be tested for the virus, they must have been in direct contact with people who recently travelled to affected countries or who show signs of the virus. He discouraged testing out of fear, and urged the public to seek information about how the virus spreads.

“It takes between two days and two weeks for the virus to settle in one’s system before signs show and they can infect other people. If an individual is a suspected case, we ask them to self-isolate while we conduct tests to avoid the possibility of infecting other people.”




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