JOHANNESBURG: South Africa on Monday (Jun 22) said it had over 100,000 coronavirus cases, the highest in the continent, while the number of deaths inched towards 2,000.
“As of today, the cumulative number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in South Africa has breached the 100 000 mark at 101,590,” the health ministry said.
Sixty-one deaths were recorded in the past 24 hours, bringing the total number of COVID-19 deaths to 1,991.
Despite the grim death toll, data shows that the mortality rate in South Africa is at two per cent, while 52.6 per cent of virus patients have recovered.
The worst-hit area is Western Cape, the coastal province accounting for 1,458 of the country’s deaths and more than half of its infections.
According to the World Health Organization, more than half of the continents infections are in South Africa.
Nigeria and Ghana are next on the list, having recorded over 20,000 and 14,000 cases respectively.
South Africa has struggled to set a strategy for dealing with the pandemic.
Officials instituted a strict lockdown when the virus first hit in March but they backtracked as the rate of infections increased and opted to reopen most sectors of the economy.
Despite an unprecedented US$26 billion virus relief package and food parcels, many South Africans have struggled to get by.
Under-fire President Cyril Ramaphosa has admitted difficulties in balancing public health with saving the nation’s economy, which was already in tatters before the virus.
“For a country such as ours, which was already facing an unemployment crisis and weak economic growth, difficult decisions and difficult days lie ahead,” he said in his weekly letter to the public on Monday.
“We would urge that the difficult decisions to be taken are taken with care and with due regard to balancing the sustainability of companies and the livelihoods of workers.”
The main opposition Democratic Alliance leader John Steenhuisen has threatened legal action if the government refuses to completely end the nationwide lockdown.
However, leader of the far-left Economic Freedom Fighters Julius Malema said the president had “completely divorced himself from logic” by even partially reopening the economy.
Health Minister Zweli Mkhize has warned that the gradual reopening does not mean the threat of COVID-19 has disappeared.
“My fear is that by the time these pockets of society come to realise the severity of the virus, it will be far too late,” he wrote in an opinion piece in Sunday’s papers.
The government is due to propose a supplementary budget on Wednesday in the face of the crisis.