JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – South African coronavirus cases reported since the first infection in early March surpassed 700,000 on Friday, the health ministry said, amid fears of an impending second wave as the nation battles an economic recession.
Some 2,019 new cases were identified on Friday, taking the total to 700,203 the ministry said. There have been 18,370 deaths in South Africa, while 629,260 people have recovered from COVID-19 and 4,505,553 have been tested.
The health ministry had recently warned of a second wave of the pandemic in the country of 58 million people if citizens and authorities become complacent and stop taking precautions.
After a sharp spike in cases in the month of July, when the country was reporting an increase of 100,000 infections every 7-10 days, the spread of the virus has slowed considerably.
The 700,000 mark was passed almost two months after South Africa crossed 600,000 coronavirus infections.
Stringent lockdown measures imposed from end-March to curb the spread of the disease have taken a heavy toll on Africa’s most industrialised economy, which was already in recession with nearly a third of its workforce jobless.
The economy has shrunk to the same size as in 2007 and unemployment has shot up by millions more.
“The damage caused by the pandemic to an already weak economy, to employment, to livelihoods, to public finances and to state-owned companies has been colossal,” President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Thursday, unveiling an economic package to stave off a debt crisis due to COVID-19.
The World Bank said last week that the economies of sub-Saharan Africa would contract by 3.3% in 2020, pushing 40 million people into extreme poverty.
(Reporting by Promit Mukherjee; Editing by Catherine Evans)