South Africa exceeds 500k Covid cases as continent nears 1m

By Nerea Gonzalez

Johannesburg, Aug 2 (efe-epa).- South Africa has surpassed 500,000 confirmed Covid-19 cases, making it the hardest-hit country in the continent and fifth-worst in the world.

Just over 8,100 deaths have also been reported in the country, as the total number of infections in Africa neared one million with almost 20,000 fatalities.

Around the world, only the United States, Brazil, India and Russia have reported worse data than South Africa.

The country has seen 503,290 confirmed cases of which two-thirds of patients around 342,400 have been discharged from hospitals, according to government data released on Saturday.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said: “Our recovery rate is currently around 68 percent, the case fatality rate – which is the number of deaths compared to the total number of people infected – remains at 1.6 percent, which is significantly lower than the global average.”

He added: “While South Africa has the fifth-highest number of cases in the world, we are only the 36th country with the highest number of deaths per capita.

“For this, we must thank our health professionals and our innovative treatments.”

Excess death figures in recent weeks suggest that thousands of Covid fatalities may be escaping official counts.

There were around 22,000 more deaths than normal between 6 May and 21 June, according to studies by the South African Medical Research Council based on historical trends, time of year and geographic location.

Authorities have reported that the rate of new cases is stabilizing, after a huge increase over the last two weeks.

Cape Town, which was Africa’s epicenter of infections during the first months of the pandemic, has also started to see some respite.

South African health minister Zwelini Mkhize said Friday during a scientific conference that the Western Cape, the province where Cape Town is located, has “passed the peak”.

South Africa is not expected to fully turn the corner until August.

The country remains the major focus of the outbreak in Africa, which has seen a notably slower advance of contagion than the rest of the world during the first months of the pandemic.

This was largely due to fast action from governments that imposed strict measures early on, such as border closures, lockdowns and curfews before many cases had been detected.

Africa has more than 945,000 cases, 19,900 deaths and 600,700 recoveries, according to the data from the Johns Hopkins University in the United States.

This means that South Africa has around 53 percent of infections on the continent despite being home to less than five percent of its population.

Like its neighbors, authorities imposed tough measures in the early months to try to prepare the country’s health system.

“The national containment managed to delay the spread of the virus for more than two months, preventing a sudden and uncontrolled increase in cases in March,” Ramaphosa said on Saturday.

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