South Africa has now registered more than 500,000 cases of the coronavirus, the health ministry said on Saturday, making it by far the hardest-hit country in Africa.
The country has become the epicenter of the deadly pandemic on the continent, accounting for more than half of the infections diagnosed in Africa.
“Today South Africa has passed the half-million mark with a cumulative total of 503,290 confirmed cases of COVID-19 registered,” Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said in his daily update.
More than a third of the positive cases are in Gauteng province – the financial center of South Africa.
So far, the death toll stands at 8,153, although local researchers have recorded a nearly 60% jump in the total number of natural deaths in recent weeks, suggesting a much higher number of related deaths. coronavirus than the officially registered one.
An analysis from the respected South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC) suggested an excess of 22,000 natural deaths between May 6 and July 21 compared to the same period in 2019 and 2018.
President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Saturday that the case fatality rate in South Africa was 1.6 percent – “significantly lower than the world average”.
“While South Africa has the fifth highest number of COVID-19 cases in the world, we only have the 36th highest number of deaths as a proportion of the population,” Ramaphosa said.
– Corruption investigations –
The number of cases in South Africa has increased rapidly in recent weeks.
Health officials expected an increase in the number of cases after the gradual relaxation of a strict blockade imposed on March 27, at the start of the pandemic.
But the recovery rate has so far been 68%.
South Africa has one of the best health care systems on the continent, but has been rocked by alleged corruption in the provision of personal protective equipment for health workers in public hospitals.
Ramaphosa spokeswoman Khusela Diko took leave last week pending an investigation into her husband’s alleged links to illegal contracts for personal protective equipment.
Diko and her husband maintained their innocence, claiming that the contract was never finalized.
Gauteng Province Health Minister Bandile Masuke was sent on forced leave this week pending an investigation into a suspected transplant in the purchase of protective gear and other medical supplies .
“It is unacceptable that there are people who are using this health crisis to enrich themselves illegally,” Ramaphosa said in his statement on Saturday.
South Africa has embarked on an aggressive screening and testing exercise, carrying out more than three million tests since the first case of the virus was recorded there in early March.
© 2020 AFP