Five people who attended a church gathering in the Free State have tested positive for the coronavirus and now the province’s Department of Health is preparing to test up to 600 people who may have been in contact with the congregants.
The five are tourists – two from Texas in the United States, two from Israel and one from France – who arrived in South Africa between 9 and 11 March to attend the church gathering, which had over 200 people.
After showing symptoms, the travellers were tested and quarantined at the bed and breakfast they were staying at.
After their results proved to be positive, the staff at the BnB were all quarantined, said Minister of Health Zweli Mkhize.
“Some of them will have to be tested immediately and others watched, depending on the assessment of the tracing team,” Mkhize said.
A contact tracing programme had been activated to track the congregants who attended the church gathering because they were at high risk.
To assist with the tracing, the South African Red Cross has stepped in and offered 282 volunteers.
Mkhize on Friday announced during a media briefing that South Africa has 202 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, which started in Wuhan, China, in December 2019.
The Free State has recorded seven cases.
Mkhize added that the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NCID had also deployed a mobile testing unit with all necessary devices needed to conduct the tests.
“We have set this weekend as a target to rush out and get as many of those members of the church, so that we are able to start the process of screening, testing, quarantine and make sure we limit the further spread of the infection,” the minister said.
Mkhize said his office has since instructed the province’s premier to activate a provincial command council to work according to the National Disaster Management Act.
All congregants, who were present at the church conference, have been asked to cooperate with the testing process.
Free State premierSisi Ntombela, in a bid to reduce the spread of the virus, has called off all major events, including the famousMangaung African Cultural Festival (Macufe, Flower Festival and June 16 celebrations.
Meanwhile, there have also been two cases of Covid-19 at Brandwag Primary School in Bloemfontein.
One is a parent who visited Italy, and the other is a health care worker. Both are under self-quarantine.
The department added that, should the children test positive, all the necessary contact tracing and testing would be done for affected pupils, teachers and community members.
Mkhize met with the Brandwag school community to give assurance the government would take all the necessary steps to ensure the safety of the learners and teachers.
For more on the Coronavirus and other stories listen to our podcast here on SoundCloud.