Another South African man tests positive to coronavirus at airport, gets barred from going home

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DESPITE calls for calm from the national Department of Health, fear is on the rise as new Covid-19 cases were confirmed in the country yesterday.

The second case is that of a 39-year old Gauteng woman who had travelled with the Hilton man who remains in isolation at Grey’s hospital in Pietermaritzburg after testing positive for the coronavirus.

A third South African, working in South Korea, had his plans to return home halted after he also tested positive at a South Korean airport.

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Dr Zweli Mkhize, the national Health Minister, said the South African embassy confirmed that the man who worked in Daegu, had tested positive.

“He was due to return to the country but has remained in South Korea. We are following up with the South Korean authorities to obtain formal confirmation of where our citizen is being treated.”

Celesti Matthews of Pretoria identified the man in South Korea as Hein Cloete, her brother, who had gone to Daegu, the epicentre of the South Korean outbreak, to teach English.

“His contract and accommodation lease expired, and he needed to proceed home. At the airport in Incheon, South Korean authorities detected a high fever and moved him to a hospital he called a ‘basement’. They performed further tests and found him to test positive for Covid-19”.

Matthews said she was contacted by Cloete for the first time on Monday and he had already had four days of treatment.

“Phones are not readily available to patients as local families sometimes overrun the facilities, but they made exceptions for him to keep us updated. We understand their concern and are grateful for caring for and treating my brother,” she said.

“He sounded medicated but said he was receiving good care and good food. He said he was not aware of any other South African being treated but did see a British patient.”

Matthews said the last time she spoke to her brother, his condition was under control.

“We do not consider my brother a high-risk case, and we are hopeful for a speedy recovery.

“We have since been in contact with the South African embassy in Korea as well as the national institute for communicable diseases and the department of health.”

She understood there was protocol to get her brother back, but awaited further guidance from local authorities.

“We have not heard from him for a couple of days, and this uncertainty is killing us and our parents. They are stressed out, but knowing that the local embassy is attempting to track him and make contact means a lot to the family, and I am sure it means a lot to him.”

Mkhize confirmed that the two infected people in South Africa had been in direct contact with each other.

He said that the whereabouts of the other eight travellers were known to the department and that they remained in isolation as testing was conducted.

“We are now awaiting their results. The second patient, who tested positive, will be immediately admitted to one of Gauteng’s public hospitals designated to receive Covid-19 positive patients.”

On Friday, Mkhize, Kwazi Mshengu, the MEC for Education, Nomagugu Simelane-zulu, the KZN health MEC, and executives from Cowan House Preparatory, a private school in Hilton, held a press briefing to address issues on KZN’S patient.

The meeting was held at the school in light of it shutting down on Friday after the Hilton man was found to be the father of two pupils.

The Hilton man’s wife was tested alongside her two children. She was still awaiting her results, while her children had tested negative.

Mkhize said the Hilton man had landed at King Shaka International Airport on Sunday, and visited his local doctor after complaining about a fever, a headache, sore throat and a cough last week. He commended Robyn Ann Reed, the attending general practitioner, who treated the man at her practice.

“She followed all the protocols laid out by the National Institute for Communicable Diseases and the department and later disclosed that he tested positive for coronavirus.”

Reed said, despite reports, the practice was not closed.

“The staff are adhering to precautionary measures, and the other doctors were not exposed at all to the infected patient. It is business as usual, and we will continue to see patients as usual.”

Derek Braans, the headmaster, said though the provincial Department of Education had decided that no public schools would be closed, Cowan House would make its own determination.

“Being independent, we are making further investigations and taking additional advice before we form our own final decision.”

George Harris, Hilton College headmaster, sent out a statement on Thursday saying a pupil had on Tuesday visited The Quarry Centre medical rooms that had been visited by the infected Hilton man.

“The general practitioner who treated the infected person was not present, and a medical professional has provided assurance that there is no risk of this boy contracting or transmitting the coronavirus,” he said.

Muzi Mahlambi, the KZN Department of Education spokesperson, said a meeting would be convened by the department for all principals within Pietermaritzburg before the end of the week.

“The purpose would be to allay fears brought on by the confirmation of a patient being infected by the virus. We will have people coming to present to the principals about the virus, have people speak to them about managing fake news so that schools do not get disturbed unnecessarily.”

Mahlambi said all parents needed to remain calm as there would not be a case that the national Minister of Health, Dr Zweli Mkhize, would not have knowledge of.

“All of us must take our cue from the department of health. And, as the KZN MEC for Education, Kwazi Mshengu, said, there will not be any schools closed.”

Simelane-zulu confirmed that 18 people across the province were in self-isolated quarantine as a precaution to prevent the spread of the virus.

– Sunday Tribune


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