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Tue, 24 Mar 2020 13:50 - Updated Tue, 24 Mar 2020 14:00

S. Africa's coronavirus cases surge to 554 amid imminent national lockdown

CAPE TOWN -- South Africa's coronavirus cases surged to 554 on Tuesday amid an imminent national lockdown, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said.

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South African Cyril Ramaphosa

Photo: Pedro Parente

This was an increase of 152 from yesterday's announcement, the highest rise in a single day since the country reported its first case on March 5.

The majority of these cases are in a "good condition" and most are not symptomatic, the minister said.

Two patients are in critical condition in private hospitals, but there is no reported death so far, the minister said in his latest update.

On Monday night, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa declared a countrywide lockdown, to be effective midnight on Thursday.

The 21-day lockdown will last until April 16.

Under the lockdown, most shops will be closed except for pharmacies, laboratories, banks, essential financial and payment services, including the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, supermarkets, petrol stations and health care providers.

Individuals will not be allowed to leave their homes except under strictly controlled circumstances, such as to seek medical care, buy food, medicine and other supplies or collect a social grant.

Speaking of the lockdown, Mkhize said the public should not be shocked when the number of South African cases increase remarkable over the next two to three weeks as the effects of the lockdown are seen.

"We must not be shocked when we the number (of cases) increase, but these measures, if we all work together, will turn the curve around. It won't happen tomorrow, it won't happen next week, and if there is any change, it will probably be seen in a couple of weeks," said Mkhize.

All of the country's nine provinces have reported coronavirus cases, with Gauteng toping the list, to be followed by Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal.

Most of the cases involved people who had travelled to Europe, the United States or the Middle East.

The majority of those without international travel history have had recent contact with persons who have travelled internationally, according to the National Institute for Communicable Diseases.

So far South Africa has seen the sharpest rise in coronavirus cases among Sub-Saharan countries.

In Ramaphosa's words, the situation "is extremely dangerous" for South Africa, which has a large number of people with suppressed immunity because of HIV and TB, and high levels of poverty and malnutrition,XINHUA.

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