World, Africa

COVID-19: Cases in South Africa top 700 ahead of curfew

Health minister says 155 cases reported overnight, 3-week curfew starts Thursday midnight

Hassan Isilow   | 25.03.2020
COVID-19: Cases in South Africa top 700 ahead of curfew

JOHANESBURG

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in South Africa is now 709 after 155 cases were reported overnight, the country’s health minister said on Wednesday.

"We are expecting a further increase in cases, and we know a lot of work has to be done by South Africans to stop the spread of the virus," Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said in an interview with national broadcaster, South African Broadcasting Corporation.

He said a church in the Free State province recently hosted five individuals from the U.S., the U.K., and Israel, who interacted with about 300 people.

He said the visitors developed COVID-19 symptoms before departing South Africa.

"We have issued a call that everyone who was at that church must contact the Free State government and undergo relevant tests," said Mkhize.

He added that most people testing positive for COVID-19 in Free State province were part of the four-day church event.

Earlier, South Africa, which has yet to report any death from the coronavirus, announced a three-week curfew starting at midnight on Thursday to stem the spread of the virus.

President Cyril Ramaphosa advised all South Africans to remain home, except those working in essential sectors, such as hospitals, security, food production, and telecommunications.

Vaccine trial

The health minister also revealed that South Africa will participate in a World Health Organization (WHO) vaccine trial for COVID-19 in June.

In a separate interview tweeted by South Africa’s National Health Insurance department, the minister appealed to fellow countrymen to work together to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

He said China, which has the highest number of COVID-19 cases, has seen thousands of recoveries and it was important for South Africa to emulate its strategy.

"We are not going to be any different as South Africans. We are going to learn a number of lessons from various countries, but at the same time, we are unique, and we must behave in a way that can change the course of this outbreak," he said.

Mkhize added that discussions were being held with professionals involved in the fight against COVID-19 and efforts were afoot to develop a standardized approach to mitigate the crisis.

Since emerging in Wuhan, China, last December, the virus has spread to at least 172 countries and regions, according to data compiled by the U.S.-based Johns Hopkins University.

The data shows over 441,100 cases have been reported worldwide since last December, with more than 19,700 deaths and over 111,900 recoveries.

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