Minister of Health Dr Zweli Mkhize. Picture: FREDDY MAVUNDA
Minister of Health Dr Zweli Mkhize. Picture: FREDDY MAVUNDA

The number of Covid-19 cases in SA has risen to 709, an increase of 155 on the day before, health minister Zweli Mkhize said on Wednesday morning.  

The biggest increases in reported cases since Tuesday are in Gauteng (64), Western Cape (61), KwaZulu-Natal (11) and Free State (15), he said in an interview on SABC.

The minister said the concentration of cases around Mangaung in Free State was a worry, and the Red Cross was helping the health department trace people who had been at a church gathering attended by five travellers from overseas who tested positive for the disease.

“This is an area of great concern,” he said, describing Mangaung as an emerging epicentre.

There are also clusters of Covid-19 in Sandton, Ekurhuleni, Tshwane and Cape Town, he said.

The main source of the disease remained travellers from European countries, but there was as growing number of cases of internal transmission, he said.

The minister said there had been no deaths, and only two patients were in intensive care. Five of the first cases had completely recovered and had tested negative for Covid-19.

So far three health-care workers have tested positive for Covid-19, he said.

Mkhize said the three-week national lockdown announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa on Monday night was intended to slow local transmission of the virus by limiting contact between people as much as possible, with the focus on ending the mingling of large groups of people.

However, people would still be able to go for a jog, or walk their dog, he said.

“There shouldn’t be a problem with that,” he said.

The lockdown will take effect from midnight on Thursday, and imposes tight restrictions on the movement of people, who are expected to stay at home except for shopping for essentials such as food and medicines, seeking health care or collecting social grants.

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

Mkhize urged South Africans to heed the government’s call to limit social interaction, saying the lockdown was not intended to be a three-week holiday. If people failed to observe the rules set for the lockdown, it would not work, he said.

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