The country has become the epicentre of the deadly pandemic on the continent, accounting for more than half of Africa’s diagnosed infections.
“Today South Africa has exceeded the half-a-million mark with a cumulative total of 503,290 confirmed COVID-19 cases recorded,” Heath Minister Zweli Mkhize said in his daily update.
More than a third of positive cases are in Gauteng province — South Africa’s financial hub.
So far the number of fatalities stands at 8,153, although local researchers have recorded a jump of nearly 60 percent in the overall number of natural deaths in recent weeks, suggesting a far higher toll of coronavirus-related fatalities than officially recorded.
An analysis by the respected South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC) suggested an excess of 22,000 natural mortalities between May 6 and July 21 compared to same period in 2019 and 2018. President Cyril Ramaphosa said Saturday South Africa’s case fatality rate stood at 1.6 percent — “significantly lower than the global average”.
“While South Africa has the fifth highest number of total COVID-19 cases globally, we have only the 36th highest number of deaths as a proportion of the population,” said Ramaphosa.
South Africa’s case load has been rising rapidly in recent weeks. Health authorities have been expecting a surge in cases after the gradual loosening of a strict lockdown that was imposed on March 27, during the early stage of the pandemic. But the recovery rate has so far been a high 68 percent.
South Africa has embarked on an aggressive testing and tracing exercise, conducting more than three million tests since the first case of the virus was recorded there in early March.