South Africa topped 500,000 coronavirus cases on Saturday, accounting for 50% of reported cases on the continent – and officials have warned the country has yet to peak in the pandemic.
Health Minister Zwelini Mkhize on Saturday announced more than 10,000 new cases, bringing the country’s total to 503,290 confirmed cases, as well as 8,005 coronavirus-related deaths, according to data compiled by researchers at Johns Hopkins University (JHU) .
South Africa is currently fifth in the world in number of reported cases, behind the United States with 4.6 million confirmed cases, Brazil with 2.6 million cases, India with nearly 1.7 million cases and Russia with over 800,000 confirmed cases.
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Even though South Africa’s caseload ranks in the top five for confirmed cases globally, it ranks 17th for death rate, according to JHU data.
But a report released by the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC) late last month showed that there are big differences in the number of reported coronavirus-related deaths and the number of ‘excessive deaths’ of natural causes.
SAMRC President Glenda Gray said the increase in excess deaths could be explained by other contracted illnesses, as resources have been pooled to fight the coronavirus.
“The numbers showed a relentless increase – as of the second week of July, there were 59 percent more deaths from natural causes than expected,” the SAMRC report said, comparing data from the past two years.
There are concerns that the number of cases reported may reflect the reality of the situation in South Africa. And health experts have pointed to people’s fear of the virus, which further prevents them from going to a dispensary when they feel sick.
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“Half a million is an important step because it shows that we have entered a phase of rapid increase. We could reach 1 million cases very quickly, ”said Denis Chopera, a Durban-based virologist. “What we know for sure is that the numbers are underestimated and this virus will remain with us for a long time to come.”
Gauteng province, home to the capital Johannesburg, has reported 35% of the country’s cases, making it the epicenter of the virus in South Africa.
Health experts believe South Africa will experience several peaks throughout the pandemic, but predicting the flattening of the curve has proven tricky globally.
“The Western Cape had the first peak and did relatively well. Gauteng is now the epicenter and seems to be doing well so far, ”Chopera told The Associated Press. “Other provinces, like the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal, do not have a reputation for well-organized health systems. They can have serious problems. ”
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The country has struggled to exceed the capacities and capacities of hospitals, as well as shortages of oxygen and personal protective equipment (PPE) for health workers.
Economic aid of $ 26 million was given to South Africa, although the aid was marred by allegations of corruption – forcing the top Gauteng province health official to resign after accusations corruption regarding COVID-19 contracts surfaced this week.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.