The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in South Africa has been on a steep trajectory, with more than half of all cases since the start of the outbreak recorded over the last two weeks, says president Cyril Ramaphosa.
Writing in his weekly open letter to the public, the president said the number of cases will pass the 50,000 and hit 1,000 deaths at some point this week.
By Sunday evening, the number of coronavirus cases stands at 48,285 infected, while minister of health Dr Zweli Mkhize announced 46 new deaths, taking the total up to 998 to date, with more than three quarters of those casualties in the Western Cape.
“Like many South Africans, I too have been worried as I watch these figures keep rising,” he said.
“While these numbers are broadly in line with what the various models had projected, there is a big difference between looking at a graph on a piece of paper and seeing real people becoming infected, some getting ill and some dying.”
However, Ramaphosa noted that the country’s lockdown has helped delay the spread of the virus, and provided time to prepare its health facilities and interventions for the expected spike in infections.
He added that businesses, government departments, schools and other institutions have used this time to get themselves ready for a gradual return to more-or-less normal activity.
Commenting on his recent trip to the Western Cape, the epicentre of coronavirus infections in South Africa, Ramaphosa said that the province also used the lockdown to better prepare for a peak in coronavirus cases.
“Yet, even with the preparations they have made, they will need more bed capacity as the disease reaches its peak. They need help from outside the province, including additional funding and health personnel,” he said.
“This provides the clearest evidence yet that we are correct to treat coronavirus as a national disaster. We must mobilise and deploy all the necessary resources we have in the country. We need an integrated strategy that brings together the national, provincial and local spheres of government.”
Ramaphosa further called on individual households to do more in the coming weeks to meet the expected demand.
He added that many have made the effort to learn as much as they can about the disease, how to identify the symptoms and how to avoid getting infected or infecting others.
“Over the coming weeks, as we watch the coronavirus infections continue to rise, we must remember that we are not helpless.
“And we should remember one simple, but fundamental, message: Don’t be alarmed. Be prepared,” he said.