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Process under way to trace WC COVID-19 patient's contacts

The 36-year-old man was not at Tygerberg Hospital but was self-isolating at his home in Cape Town.

This handout illustration image obtained 27 February 2020 courtesy of the National Institutes of Health taken with a transmission electron microscope shows SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, isolated from a patient in the US, as virus particles are shown emerging from the surface of cells cultured in the lab - the spikes on the outer edge of the virus particles give coronaviruses their name, crown-like. Picture: AFP.

CAPE TOWN - A process was underway to trace people who were in contact with the Western Cape's first COVID-19 patient.

Provincial health officials said that the 36-year-old man travelled to multiple countries, including Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Turkey.

Three patients were admitted to Tygerberg Hospital's isolation unit and were awaiting the outcome of their tests later on Wednesday.

The province's first COVID-19 patient arrived in South Africa on Monday and saw a doctor on the same day after showing symptoms.

The 36-year-old was not at Tygerberg Hospital but was self-isolating at his home in Cape Town.

The Western Cape Head of Disaster Medicine, Dr Wayne Smith, said that they immediately started tracing possible contacts once the patient's positive test result was confirmed.

"We know this patient was on an aircraft and which aircraft it was. We have now started working with the airlines on getting the information from the passenger manifest so that we can know and start the contact traces as they may have had contact with this patient. Those are the systems we have used in the past and it's nothing new."

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The Health Department said that a doctor could request self-isolation if they suspected a patient may have had a high-risk exposure to COVID-19.

This might be before tests or while a person waited for lab results.

Meanwhile, Western Cape Premier Alan Winde said that several working streams were under way to prepare different sectors' response to COVID-19.

The working streams included business & tourism, education and social as well as transport and logistics.

Winde addressed the media earlier on Wednesday following an announcement that the province's first confirmed COVID-19 case.

"There's a whole range of economic activities that happen in the province. There's a working group in education, there are seven different working streams and they are all working on building scenarios, on what happens when... and that is why we are here today to come have a look at the readiness of Tygerberg and the quarantine space."

Health MEC Nomafrench Mbombo reiterated that all healthcare facilities in the province were able to manage COVID-19 cases.

"For the Western Cape, you can go for testing at any health facility, not necessarily in Tygerberg, you can go anywhere else, private doctors and so forth, it is important to emphasise that."

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