The number of COVID-19 cases in South Africa has risen steadily over the past fews days amid massive community testing in a 21-day national lockdown.
The country reported a total of 1,749 cases as of Tuesday, an increase of over 60 from Monday’s announcement, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said.
One more patient, a 60-year-old man from KwaZulu-Natal Province who also suffered from cancer, has died of the infection, bringing the death toll to 13, said Mkhize.
The minister voiced “serious concern” over an outbreak at St Augustine’s Hospital in Durban, where 66 people, among them 48 medical workers, tested positive over the past few days.
The hospital, which closed its emergency unit days ago after some staff members tested positive, may have to close down, Mkhize said.
“It is a matter of serious concern and we are dealing with it,” he said.
The hospital will soon be fumigated, and specialists have been assigned there to trace all the contacts, said the minister.
Also on Tuesday, Police Minister Bheki Cele indicated that the national lockdown would be extended if the pandemic could not be contained.
The government’s first priority is to ensure that the people are safe, he said.
“We would wish to go back to the normal life as soon as we can but we wish to go back there with the people alive,” Cele said.
The rise in coronavirus cases came as the country was rolling out massive community testing.
Thousands of health workers have been deployed across the country, going door to door to ask people standard questions.
As of Monday, 58,098 tests have been conducted in both public and private sectors, according to the National Institute for Communicable Diseases.
Economists have warned that extending the lockdown would apply further pressure on the country’s already ailing economy, a measure that the country cannot afford.
The South African Reserve Bank announced on Monday that the country’s economy could shrink by between two and four percent this year. Enditem