Health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize has announced that South Africa has seen an increase in coronavirus cases, with the total now up to 2,506.
This represents an increase of 91 cases from the 2,415 announced on Tuesday.
Gauteng still represents the greatest number of cases in the country, accounting for 930 reported infections. This is followed by the Western Cape with 657 cases, and KwaZulu Natal with 519 cases.
The minister also announced an increase in the number of deaths, with 7 new deaths being linked to the virus.
In most cases, those who died had underlying health issues, the minister said, most notably diabetes and hypertension. He said that 90,515 tests have been conducted.
Here is the latest statement from @DrZweliMkhize. The minister has reported seven new deaths related to #Covid_19SA #Covid_19 and has outlined the underlying conditions in each case. pic.twitter.com/USF0ZASZB9
— Department of Health: COVID-19 (@COVID_19_ZA) April 15, 2020
Globally, coronavirus infections pushed through 2 million cases, with more than 128,000 deaths recorded, and 492,000 recoveries.
The US continues to struggle to contain the outbreak, reporting more than 614,000 infections, and 26,000 deaths, with New York very much the epicentre.
“By September, then we are hopeful we could be back to something more like normal, but the way we get there is with that smart, cautious approach,” New York mayor Bill de Blasio said in Fox interview.
The European Commission meanwhile, has drawn up plans for a partial lifting of restrictions, but warned that some will remain until a vaccine or cure is found, Bloomberg reported.
This despite Spain reporting the biggest increase in the number of confirmed cases in six days on Wednesday, while the daily death toll declined.
Portugal reported its biggest increase in new confirmed cases in five days, while the number of hospitalized patients fell, Bloomberg reported.
The number of new cases in Germany fell for a sixth day on Wednesday. There were 2,138 new infections, the lowest increase this month, bringing the total to 132,210, according to figures from Johns Hopkins University.
The country is set to agree on an extension of nationwide lockdown measures until at least May 3, Bloomberg said.
Real and dire possibilities for South Africa
Chief economist at the Efficient Group, Dawie Roodt, warned that increased poverty and hardship caused by South Africa’s lockdown will lead to significantly more deaths than just the coronavirus.
South Africa is currently in the middle of a 35-day lockdown period, as instructed by president Cyril Ramphosa.
In a research note to clients, Roodt said that the country’s current economic data shows that the income of the average South African will fall, likely by about 10%.
However, he noted that this is just one data point in a list of worrying estimates that South Africa is currently facing, including:
- A GDP contraction of around 7%;
- State revenue under-collection of approximately R200 to R300bn below budget;
- State debt to exceed 80% of GDP in two years;
- More than one million jobs lost;
- More social and political tension;
- A drop in life expectancy.
“Despite these real and dire possibilities, some people still argue that heartless economists choose ‘money’ before lives. This is not true. A healthy economy shelters healthy citizens. The health of a country equates to the wealth of a national economy,” Roodt said.
“What the lockdown is currently doing, is to intentionally undermine the economy, obviously in the belief that it will lower or limit the number of lives lost to Covid-19, as opposed to the number of lives lost as a result of increased poverty.”
Roodt said that if more lives are lost to Covid-19 than to an increase in poverty, the lockdown might be justified. However, he noted that that the disease will spread after the lockdown, leaving the country with an increased death toll due to poverty.
“If ‘ too many’ lives are lost to poverty as a result of the economic impact of the lockdown, the solution is glaringly obvious: lift the lockdown,” he said.
The rand meanwhile, came under renewed pressure on Wednesday – falling prey to a risk-off environment due to the dire outlook for the South African economy, noted Bianca Botes, executive director at Peregrine Treasury Solutions.
The situation, she said, has been exacerbated by US president Donald Trump’s withdrawal of funding from the World Health Organisation (WHO) in the middle of a global pandemic.
“The uncertainty regarding how long global lockdowns will endure is also adding fuel to the uncertainty in markets,” Botes said.