The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in South Africa stood at 709 as of Wednesday morning, according to Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize.
In an interview with SABC News, Mkhize also said the majority of patients are “improving,” five have turned negative and only two are in intensive care units (ICU) in Gauteng private hospitals.
He said, “All of the patients are improving. There are only two who are in ICU in private hospitals, and so all of them are basically improving and we’re just waiting for the tests to be done. So, we would say things are pretty much stable.”
Highest increases in Gauteng and Western Cape
The latest figure is an increase of 155 from the previous update issued on Tuesday. Mkhize said the numbers are still expected to increase.
The largest increases from Tuesday’s update were in Gauteng with 64 new cases, Western Cape (61), Free State (15) and KwaZulu-Natal (11).
Mkhize said the biggest concern is in the Free State province because of the Jerusalem Prayer Breakfast hosted by the Divine Restoration Ministries in Bloemfontein on 10-11 March.
Five people who attended it tested positive and are all tourists from abroad. The Minister said most of the new cases in the Mangaung area are related to the Prayer Breakfast, which was attended by more than 300 people.
Mkhize said, “We have traced a number of contacts and it’s really coming to quite a number because at this point, the first 300 [attendees] need to be rounded up and as soon as each one of them becomes positive, then we have to go to their family contacts and workmates.”
He also shed more light about the aim of the 21-day nationwide lockdown declared by President Cyril Ramaphosa on Monday.
“It’s the mixing of people that we want to limit. The lockdown will stop the trains and taxis and in that way, the mixing of people who could have been having the infection is reduced so that for the duration of the three weeks, fewer people would get infected,” he explained.
The lockdown will start at midnight on Thursday, 26 March until midnight on Thursday, 16 April. This means that when South Africans wake up on Friday morning, the country will officially be on lockdown.
This period is expected to have a devastating impact on the country’s economy and President Ramaphosa has announced a series of measures to mitigate the impact.
These include a R500 million fund to help small, micro and medium-sized businesses, a R3 billion industrial package by the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC), and a Solidarity Fund to which private sector entities and other well-wishers can donate.