South Africa's COVID-19 cases surpass half a million

MARCO LONGARI / AFP

South Africa's confirmed cases of COVID-19 have crossed half a million, its health ministry said on Saturday, while cases in Africa as a whole approached a million.

Africa's most industrialised nation recorded 10,107 new confirmed cases of COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the novel coronavirus, pushing the total to 503,290, the ministry said.

Just over 3 million people have so far been tested for the virus in South Africa, which confirmed its first case five months ago, and 8,153 deaths have been recorded.

It comes after a nationwide lockdown that was imposed at the end of March has been eased in a bid to revive economic activity.

"The lockdown succeeded in delaying the spread of the virus by more than two months, preventing a sudden and uncontrolled increase in infections in late March," South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said in a statement.

The daily spike in infections, however, appears to be stabilising, particularly in the worst-hit Western Cape, Gauteng and Eastern Cape provinces.

The World Health Organisation's top emergencies expert Mike Ryan last week warned that South Africa's experience was a precursor for what was likely to happen across the continent.

Cases in South Africa, which has the fifth highest total in the world, have overwhelmed an already stretched healthcare system.

During August, the National Ventilator Project will deliver 20,000 locally-produced, non-invasive ventilators to where they are most needed, Ramaphosa said, as the government continues to mobilise additional facilities, equipment and personnel in provinces still experiencing an increase in infections. 

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