South Africans are panicking after news of the coronavirus hitting the land surfaced earlier on Thursday.
“The National Institute for Communicable Diseases confirmed that a suspected case of COVID-19 has tested positive,” the health ministry said.
“The patient is a 38-year-old male who traveled to Italy with his wife. They were part of a group of 10 people and they arrived back in South Africa on March 1, 2020,” it added.
The ministry said it would brief the media later in the day to provide more details.
The coronavirus – COVID-19, as the new strain is called – is thought to have originated in a market selling wildlife in Wuhan late last year. It has infected about 80,000 people and killed more than 3,000, mostly in China.
Last week President Cyril Ramaphosa ordered the repatriation of nearly 200 citizens from Wuhan.
Meanwhile plans and strategies to tackle the virus have been discussed and implemented by various government departments.
The health ministry said the patient, in the eastern province of KwaZulu-Natal, had been self-isolating since Tuesday after consulting a doctor over symptoms of coughing, a sore throat, headaches and a fever.
The doctor has also self-quarantined.
The health officials said a “tracer team” had been deployed to the province together with epidemiologists and clinicians to further investigate the circumstances of the infection.