Health officials check tourists' temperatures on arrival in hopes of containing the spread of the COVID-19 virus at the Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok, Thailand, Wednesday, March 4, 2020. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)
Health officials check tourists' temperatures on arrival in hopes of containing the spread of the COVID-19 virus at the Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok, Thailand, Wednesday, March 4, 2020. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)

First confirmed coronavirus case in SA sends rand reeling

By Renee Bonorchis and Staff Reporter Time of article published Mar 5, 2020

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JOHANNESBURG - South Africa confirmed its first coronavirus case after a 38-year-old man who traveled to Italy tested positive, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said.

A tracer team has been sent to South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal province along with epidemiologists and clinicians from the National Institute for Communicable Diseases, Mkhize said in a statement on Thursday. The man with the virus, who was part of a group of 10 people who traveled to Italy, returned home on Sunday and has been self-isolating since Tuesday.

It has taken more than two months for the virus to reach South African from mainland China, where it originated. Globally the number of confirmed cases tops 96,000 with more than 3,300 people having died.

Other African countries with confirmed cases include Nigeria, Senegal, Egypt and Algeria. While countries like South Africa have prepared for the arrival of the coronavirus, smaller African economies with poor health-care systems may struggle to contain the outbreak. 

The rand extended losses after the announcement, weakening more than 1% against the dollar.

The spread of the new virus can remain “minimal and slow” if the outbreak is fought at the source and countries cooperate, the World Health Organization’s chief said. The WHO declared the outbreak of coronavirus in China a global health emergency on Jan. 30.

According to Bianca Botes, Treasury Partner at Peregrine Treasury Solutions, the rand has come under pressure as the first case of the COVID-19 coronavirus has been confirmed in South Africa.

Botes said, "The markets are on edge, with many questioning the ability of government to deal with a breakout in SA efficiently.  The currency weakened 1.4% during the course of Thursday, trading at R15.46/$, R17.30/€ and R19.99/£." 

BLOOMBERG / BUSINESS REPORT ONLINE 

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