South Africa has experienced its first coronavirus-related deaths, according to the Department of Health, as confirmed cases hit over 1,000.
The two deaths occurred in the Western Cape, one at a private hospital and the other at a public hospital.
Health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize said that more information would follow soon.
“We will give more details later on, when we announce the latest confirmed Covid-19 cases, which have increased from yesterday’s number and have now tipped the 1,000 mark,” he said.
The news of the first Covid-19 deaths in the country come on the first day of a 21-day lockdown initiated to curb the spread of the virus.
Alan Winde, premier of the Western Cape called it a very sombre day. He said that the coronavirus can affect any person, noting that the deceased included a 28 year-old female, and 48 year-old female.
He called on South Africans to follow the lockdown orders, and to adhere to the heightened rules.
The number of confirmed cases are expected to increase over the next weeks as government moves to rapidly ramp up testing capacity and identify hard-hit areas.
Globally, there have been 532,926 reported cases, with 24,093 deaths. The US has overtaken China as the country with the most infections.
For the next three weeks South Africans will be forced to remain at home, as businesses across the country shut down, and only essential services and employees have been exempted.
For the period of lockdown: every person is confined to his or her place of residence, unless strictly for the purpose of performing an essential service, obtaining an essential good or service, collecting a social grant, or seeking emergency, life saving, or chronic medical attention.
Movement means entering or leaving a place of residence or, in the case of people nor ordinarily resident in the Republic, their place of temporary residence while in the Republic.
The health department said that the most effective way to curb the spread of the virus is by reducing human contact – the main way it is transmitted – and things like a lockdown have worked in countries like China to significantly reduce the number of daily infections.
Academics have warned that without containment measures, millions of South Africans would be infected, with thousands needing intensive care, which the country’s healthcare system cannot handle.
A lockdown is an extreme, but necessary measure to prevent as many deaths as possible.
— Dr Zweli Mkhize (@DrZweliMkhize) March 27, 2020