As of Friday health minister Zweli Mkhize has confirmed that positive cases of the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) in South Africa have increased to 202. 

He said the Free State province had also reported its first positive cases, with seven people infected. 

Mkhize was addressing media at Bophelo House, and was joined by the province’s premier Sisi Ntombela, and Free State health MEC, Montseng Tsiu. 

One of the Free State cases is a mother of two, employed as a health worker. 

Minister of Health Zweli Mkhize. Picture: HealthZA/Twitter

Mkhize said the patients the woman was caring for had been identified, and they would be screened and tested. 

The woman had no history of international travel. Her children would be tested, and classmates of the woman’s children, at Brandwag Primary School, would also be screened. Mkhize visited the school prior to the press briefing. 

Another case was of a woman who had visited Italy and returned. 

Of the other positive cases in the province, five had returned from abroad and, when back in the country, attended a church gathering of about 200 or 300 people. The five citizens had been quarantined at a bed and breakfast they were staying in, along with the staff. 

In this file picture, a worker disinfects a church amid fears of the new coronavirus outbreak in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. Picture: AP/Slamet Riyadi

Contact tracing had been activated to get hold of the church members, said Mkhize. Red Cross volunteers had also been brought on board to help trace the congregants, he said. 

Mkhize said premier Ntombela had been asked to establish a provincial command council.

“The virus is going to be with us for quite a while, it will be one of those viruses that our bodies will have to build new immunities to deal with and defeat,” he said. 

No deaths have been reported in South Africa from the virus.