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Mkhize says FS COVID-19 infection misinterpreted

Health Minister Zweli Mkhize is briefing the country on the latest developments regarding the coronavirus infections in the country.

 Health Minister Zweli Mkhize speaks at an inter-ministerial briefing in Pretoria on the coronavirus situation in South Africa on 9 March 2020. Picture: Kayleen Morgan/EWN

JOHANNESBURG - Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize has moved to clarify that the Free State man who had reportedly tested positive for COVID-19 was in fact not infected with the coronavirus.

This means that the number of cases in the country is revised down from 17 to 16.

The minister was in Polokwane on Thursday evening where he was giving a briefing on the ongoing repatriation process of South Africans in China.

The minister confirmed that the Protea Ranch Hotel in Limpopo would be used as a "quarantine site" for the South Africans being repatriated from the virus epicentre in Wuhan, China.

The minister said that the test of the Free State man was done at a local private laboratory in an attempt to decentralise testing, however, confirmation from the NICD found the result was negative.

But Mkhize maintained that it was more important to communicate quickly than to wait for fake news to overtake reporting by the department.

"We'd mentioned that the individual had worked with a Chinese businessman but not that he had been to China or any part where the infection is rife. It was not supposed to mean that someone was confirmed as positive and therefore that contact and in such an instance such a reference was made, so we want to indicate publicly that we withdraw that and we regret that such a reference was made."

WATCH: Mkhize briefs SA on COVID-19 developments

The minister confirmed that none of the 122 South Africans being evacuated from Wuhan had been sick, adding that the only restriction they would have is that they couldn't meet their families during quarantine as a statutory provision.

The South African crew members of the Diamond Princess cruise ship were also in quarantine for 14 days before returning home.

Minister Mkhize said that those who tested positive for the virus during the quarantine in Polokwane would be removed and taken for treatment.