The number of South Africans infected with the coronavirus has risen to 1,170, with minister in the presidency Jackson Mtehmbu saying one of the deaths reported earlier might not have been due to Covid-19.

Mthembu was updating the country on Covid-19 infections on behalf of health minister Zweli Mkhize on Friday night. Earlier on Friday, Mkhize had announced that there were two deaths in the Western Cape.

Western Cape premier Alan Winde said two women died, one 28 and the other 48. Both died on Friday morning. However, Mthembu said that one of the deaths is still a “suspected” case. 

“The minister ... said I must just say to people of SA and the media that while there have been a reported number of two deaths from Covid-19, what has now been confirmed by the authorities is one death, and the other death is suspected,” Mthembu said.

He said Mkhize would give a further explanation at a later time. 

Covid-19 has raced around the world since it emerged in China three months ago, battering financial markets, disrupting trade and travel, and prompting a growing number of countries to impose tight restrictions to try to slow transmission.

Friday was the first day of SA’s 21-day national lockdown.

The three-week lockdown announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa on Monday night is intended to slow local transmission of the virus by limiting contact between people as much as possible, with the focus on preventing large gatherings.

The lockdown took effect at midnight on Thursday and imposes tight restrictions on movement with people expected to stay at home except for shopping for essentials, such as food and medicines, seeking healthcare or collecting social grants.

Essential workers, including people who work in healthcare, emergency services, the police, army and in the production and distribution of vital supplies, such as food and pharmaceuticals, are exempt from these rules.