Doctor and Netcare Group Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Richard Friedland (R) explains how to wash hands at the Netcare…
Doctor and Netcare Group Chief Executive Officer Richard Friedland explains how to wash hands at the Netcare Sunninghill Hospital in Johannesburg, March 12, 2020.

JOHANNESBURG - South Africa's health minister on Friday announced that the nation has seen eight new cases of novel coronavirus, bringing the nation's total caseload to at least 24.

That number does not include a case reported Thursday, when South Africa's National Institute for Communicable Diseases erroneously said the nation had seen its first locally transmitted case of novel coronavirus.

"We humbly apologize for the error in reporting the first case of local transmission of COVID-19 in our earlier report," the agency said on Twitter late Thursday. "On verification, the case was found to be negative."

A robotic pulsating UV machine sterilizes a consulting room at the Milpark Hospital in Johannesburg, March 11, 2020 as a precaution against the new coronavirus.

The false positive could allay fears that the virus is spreading through South Africa. Authorities reported the country's first case of coronavirus on March 5.

"All the cases identified to date have been in travelers from affected countries," the NICD said. "At this time there is no indication that COVID-19 is circulating widely in the community in South Africa."

The false result, authorities say, came from a private laboratory. The patient is a 32-year-old man in the Free State province who came into contact with a Chinese businessman.

Minister Zweli Mkhize told local media on Friday that the eight new cases in South Africa were all seen in patients who had recently traveled overseas. 

A South African Defense Force soldier stands at the entrance of The Protea Hotel Ranch Resort in Polokwane on March 13, 2020, where the 122 South African citizens evacuated from the coronavirus epicenter of Wuhan in China are to be quarantined.

He spoke to reporters outside a facility in Polokwane, in Limpopo province, where authorities are preparing to receive 122 South African nationals who have been repatriated from Wuhan, the Chinese city where the pandemic started in December. They will be held in quarantine for up to 21 days, although none have tested positive for the virus.

The virus has now infected more than 125,000 people worldwide, killing more than 4,600.

South African officials have said they are concerned about high volumes of internal travel during the Easter holiday weekend in April, an issue that is likely to be discussed during a high-level meeting scheduled for Sunday.

Special Section