2,783 confirmed coronavirus cases in South Africa – with deaths up to 50

Health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize has announced that there are now 2,783 confirmed cases of coronavirus in South Africa – a significant increase of 178 cases from Thursday.

On Thursday, the minister reported 2,605 infections, while testing has surpassed the 100,000 mark.

The minister also reported two additional deaths, taking the country’s total to 50.

Gauteng has also passed 1,000 cases (1,018), remaining the hardest hit province in the country.

Globally, coronavirus cases closed in on 2.2 million infections, with deaths climbing to 147,512, along with more than 557,000 recoveries.

The Trump administration issued guidelines that could allow states and employers to abandon most social distancing practices within a month, Bloomberg reported.

China’s GDP meanwhile showed the first contraction in decades after the outbreak shut down large parts of the world’s second-biggest economy. The country revised its death toll by 39%, adding more than 1,000 fatalities in Wuhan, where the epidemic first emerged.

The latest revision of the coronavirus death toll by authorities in the central Chinese city of Wuhan “can stand the test of history,” foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told a briefing on Friday.

Authorities released the revised data at the first available opportunity, Zhao said.

China revised its total death toll from the coronavirus to 4,632 from 3,342 after adding about 1,290 fatalities in Wuhan, the city where the virus first emerged last December, according to a statement from the country’s National Health Commission.

The revision in numbers was due to several reasons, said the report. The first is that some patients died at home without seeing a doctor or being tested for the virus as hospitals were overwhelmed during the epidemic’s peak.

Late and incomplete reporting due to medical workers and institutions being overwhelmed by the epidemic were also cited. Zhao said revisions are common international practice, adding that there has never been any cover-up of the outbreak.

Russia meanwhile, reported another record daily increase in new infections. Cases also increased in Germany at a faster rate, while Singapore reported its biggest jump in infections after an outbreak at dormitories, Bloomberg reported.

Extend extended lockdown in SA

Peter Attard Montalto of Intellidex, a capital markets and financial services research house, said that there has been some promise that further relaxations will occur in the coming weeks in South Africa, “but we are yet to see a proper risk adjusted approach with any business able to resume if it can show appropriate health protocols”.

“The government’s command and control mindset is still hampering the transition to this mode,” he said.

Attard Montalto said that the government’s message is conflicting, with talk about lockdown ending, but then also saying it could be extended.

“We do expect government to eventually switch to this risk adjusted mindset and that after that we enter a new phase which may well have to last till start September at least when DoH (Department of Health) currently see the number of cases peaking at the end of winter,” he said.

Crucially for the average South African, Attard Montalto said that a generalised ban on movement however, is likely to be extended from the end April, though allowing more firms to work with health protocols.

“That said the alternative scenario is that we see the lockdown end to some degree in May, but then have to be put back in place through end June and into July as case and death numbers accelerate fastest in mid-winter. Both scenarios are broadly the same in terms of economic impact,” he said.

Job losses

The net result for the country’s growth prospects is clearly negative, with Attard Montalto forecasting -9.7% GDP growth for this year, 4.5% for 2021 and 2.5% for 2021.

“We see around 1.5 million jobs lost currently with this forecast though the number at risk is much higher, the forecast includes the furlough ability allowed by UIF policies,” he said.

“Note we still strongly hint that the impact here will last longer and there will be further extensions. We also think about a scenario of a phased risk adjusted approach lasting till start September which could see growth of around -15.5% this year.

“This however would see major job losses of over 2 million people and so we get into a circle problem of the scenario becoming impossible to implement,” the analyst said.

Cabinet said in a statement on Thursday that all clusters have been asked to work together to produce one consolidated document on key priorities of the country’s economic recovery plan, to be completed before the next cabinet meeting scheduled to take place on Monday, 20 April 2020.

Read: South African medical aids asked to give members a 3 month premium holiday – and cover coronavirus tests

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2,783 confirmed coronavirus cases in South Africa – with deaths up to 50