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Blood sample with respiratory coronavirus positive

Coronavirus: South Africa virus cases pass half million mark

More than half a million coronavirus have been confirmed in South Africa, according to the country’s health minister.

Zwelini Mkhize announced 10,107 new cases on Saturday, bringing the tally to 503,290, along with 8,153 deaths.

South Africa is the hardest-hit country on the continent and accounts for half of all reported infections in Africa.

It also has the fifth-highest number of cases in the world after the US, Brazil, Russia and India.

In other developments:

  • Russian health authorities are preparing to start a mass vaccination campaign against coronavirus in October
  • A jobless benefit paid tens of millions of unemployed Americans expired after Republicans and Democrats failed to reach a deal
  • Thousands of people in Berlin took part in protests against Germany’s coronavirus restrictions
  • Pubs or “other activities” in England may need to close to allow schools to reopen next month

South African health authorities have said the rate of infection is increasing rapidly, with cases currently concentrated around the capital, Pretoria.

More than a third of all infections have been reported in Gauteng – South Africa’s financial hub, and a province that has quickly become the epicentre of the national outbreak.

Infections are not expected to peak for another month.

South Africa imposed a strict lockdown in April and May that slowed the spread of the coronavirus.

It began a gradual reopening in June but restrictions – including a ban on alcohol sales – were reintroduced last month as infection rates began to rise again. A state of emergency is also in force until 15 August.

The influx of patients has put an incredible strain on South Africa’s hospitals, and a BBC investigation found an array of systematic failures that had exhausted healthcare professionals and brought the health service near to collapse.

President Cyril Ramaphosa said last month that 28,000 hospital beds had been made available for Covid-19 patients but the country still faced a “serious” shortage of doctors and nurses.

Last week the World Health Organization warned that South Africa’s experience was a likely a precursor to what would happen across the rest of the continent.


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