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Coronavirus: South Africa detects first case

South Africa has detected its first case of the coronavirus, a 38-year-old man who visited Italy with his wife.

This brings to 27 the number of coronavirus cases reported in Africa. Algeria is worst-affected, with 17 cases, followed by Senegal with four.

The South African couple, who have two children, were part of a group of 10 who returned from Italy on 1 March, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said.

The man and the doctor who checked him were both in self-isolation, he added.

A tracer team had been sent to the eastern province of KwaZulu-Natal to identify people who might have been in contact with the man and the doctor, Mr Mkhize said.

With only a handful of coronavirus cases detected across Africa, governments have had valuable extra time to build up their testing and treatment capabilities, BBC Africa correspondent Andrew Harding reports.

But there are particular concerns that in South Africa – home to the world’s largest HIV epidemic – the immune systems of millions of people have already been weakened, leaving them, potentially, more vulnerable to this new virus, he adds.

Two other South Africans who were admitted to hospital in Japan with the coronavirus have recovered, and would return home soon, other officials said.

The pair had been hospitalised in Japan after being taken ashore from the Diamond Princess cruise ship they were working on.

People aboard the ship were first quarantined in January when a passenger who disembarked in Hong Kong tested positive for the coronavirus.

South Africa’s government said it was at an “advanced stage” with its plan to bring its citizens back from Wuhan city in China, the epicentre of the outbreak.

“A total of 184 South Africans have indicated their desire to be repatriated,” it added in a statement.