South Africa Records First 2 Coronavirus Deaths, Cases Top 1,000

A man walks in the streets wearing a face mask as a preventive measure agaisnt the spread of COVID-19 coronavirus on March 23, 2020, in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. ZINYANGE AUNTONY / AFP
A man walks in the streets wearing a face mask as a preventive measure agaisnt the spread of COVID-19 coronavirus on March 23, 2020, in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. ZINYANGE AUNTONY / AFP

 

South Africa on Friday reported its first two deaths from the novel coronavirus outbreak as the number of confirmed cases breached the 1,000 mark, the government said.

“This morning we wake South Africans up with sad news that we now have our first deaths resulting from COVID-19,” Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said in a statement.

He said the two people died in the Western Cape province, as the country went under a nationwide 21-day lockdown that took effect at midnight.

The minister promised to release more details later “when we announce the latest confirmed COVID-19 cases, which have increased from yesterday’s number and have tipped the 1,000 mark”.

On Friday, the country reported 927 confirmed cases, a more than 30 percent jump from the previous day.

In a bid to halt the spread, some 57 million people have been ordered to stay at home during the three-week total lockdown.

But many people defied the order — going about business as usual while some lined up outside food stores or queing up for transport at bus terminals on Friday morning.

 

-AFP

COVID-19: South Africa Set For Military-Enforced Lockdown

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa dressed in military fatigues talks to soldiers of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) at the Doornkop Military Base in Soweto, on March 26, 2020, as they get ready to maintain public order during the national lockdown scheduled from March 26, 2020 until April 16, 2020 to prevent the spreading of the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak in South Africa. AFP
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa dressed in military fatigues talks to soldiers of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) at the Doornkop Military Base in Soweto, on March 26, 2020, as they get ready to maintain public order during the national lockdown scheduled from March 26, 2020 until April 16, 2020 to prevent the spreading of the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak in South Africa. AFP

 

South Africa braced for a nationwide military-patrolled lockdown Thursday, joining other African countries imposing strict curfews and shutdowns in an attempt to halt the spread of the coronavirus across the continent.

Some 57 million people will be restricted to their homes during South Africa’s three-week total lockdown which begins at midnight.

Kenya, Rwanda and Mali are some of the African countries that have imposed restrictions to curb the spread of the coronavirus with the continent’s confirmed cases creeping towards 3,000 and more than 70 deaths so far.

Although Africa’s toll is far lower than in Europe, the United States and the Middle East, health experts say the world’s poorest continent is especially vulnerable and the figures likely fall far short of the reality.

Donning camouflage uniform complete with a cap, President Cyril Ramaphosa saw off soldiers before they deployed from a military base in Soweto township.

“I send you out to go and defend our people against coronavirus,” Ramaphosa said.

“This is unprecedented, not only in our democracy but also in the history of our country, that we will have a lockdown for 21 days to go out and wage war against an invisible enemy coronavirus,” he said.

During South Africa’s shutdown there will be no jogging, dog-walking or sale of alcohol across the country, which has so far the highest number of detected infections in sub-Saharan Africa at 927 cases, with Ramaphosa projecting it could reach 1,500 “within a few days”.

Nigeria’s government warned Thursday that Africa’s most populous nation could soon see an “exponential” increase in coronavirus infections unless contacts of confirmed cases are tracked down quicker.

‘War against invisible enemy’

Kenya, which has 31 cases, on Thursday recorded its first death — a 66-year-old Kenyan man who had travelled from South Africa on March 13, the health ministry announced.

The east African country will begin a 1700 GMT to 0300 GMT curfew on Friday in a bid to curtail the spread.

In the Sahel, Burkina Faso, which last week recorded sub-Saharan Africa’s first death, announced that eight towns, including the capital Ouagadougou, would be “quarantined” from Friday.

“Quarantined means that nobody will enter or leave the towns involved,” the minister for communication, Remis Fulgance Dandjinou, said, adding that the measure would be applied for “two weeks.”

In the Democratic Republic of Congo, authorities ordered a four-day “total confinement” in the capital Kinshasa, starting Saturday.

Hours before the start of South Africa’s lockdown, panicky residents in economic hub Johannesburg stocked up on food, alcohol and other supplies with some large supermarkets running out of eggs and the staple maize meal powder.

Elsewhere, thousands of people crammed long-distance bus terminals to escape to the countryside to be with families, raising fears they would transmit the virus to the most vulnerable old who normally reside or retire to farms and villages.

At the behest of Ramaphosa, many South Africans observed two minutes of prayers or silent meditation on the eve of the lockdown.

“These are challenging times. We are traversing a path we have never travelled before. There are many amongst us who are fearful, uncertain and vulnerable,” the president said.

‘Severe financial impact’

South Africa’s Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula warned “if people are not complying, they (the military) may be forced to take extraordinary measures.”

Violation of any of the regulations will carry a six-month jail sentence or fine in South Africa.

Two men have already been charged with attempted murder for defying a quarantine order and allegedly going out after they tested positive for the coronavirus, exposing others to the infection.

Moody’s Investors Service warned Friday that the effect of border closures, commodity price declines and financial market volatility due to the pandemic will have “severe macroeconomic and financial impact on African sovereigns”.

In one early indication of the likely impact of the pandemic on Africa’s economy, rubber processors in Ivory Coast — the continent’s largest producer — said they were bracing for losses of around $100 million a month as its biggest clients in Asia, Europe and America, shut down.

“The progressive impact of this will be a slowdown in rubber processing activity, even a closedown,” said Eugene Kremien, president of industry association Apromac.

“Our industry is already suffering, and it’s just the start.”

 

AFP

South Africa’s Coronavirus Cases Surge Past 500

A man sprays commuters with hand sanitiser as a preventive measure at Wanderer’s taxi rank in Johannesburg CBD, on March 18, 2020.  Michele Spatari / AFP.

 

South Africa reported more than 150 new coronavirus cases on Tuesday, taking the new tally to 554, the highest in Africa, a day after it ordered a three-week lockdown.

“As of today, there are 554 cases of coronavirus in South Africa,” Health Minister Zweli Mkhize, told a news conference.

“For the next week or two, we still expect the numbers to go up. This is a disease pattern we cannot predict.”

He said in the next week or two the numbers “would probably have gone three or four times or so”.

“This is just one man’s guess, it’s not even a projection.”

In a bid to stem the spread of the deadly virus, South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa announced a 21-day military-patrolled lockdown would be enforced from Thursday.

The pandemic had been slow to spread in Africa compared with other regions but the number of deaths and infections have started to increase, sparking concerns about the continent’s vulnerability to contagious diseases.

Africa now has more than 1,800 confirmed cases, according to the African Union’s Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

AFP

South Africa’s COVID-19 Cases Surge Past 500

Customers stand in a queue outside Makro in Pretoria East on March 24, 2020. – South African President Cyril Ramaphosa on March 23, 2020 announced a 21-day national lockdown to start later this week to contain the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus which has affected more than 400 people and ordered the military to enforce the ban. Phill Magakoe / AFP.

 

South Africa reported more than 150 new coronavirus cases on Tuesday, taking the new tally to 554, the highest in Africa, a day after it ordered a three-week lockdown.

“As of today, there are 554 cases of coronavirus in South Africa,” Health Minister Zweli Mkhize, told a news conference.

“For the next week or two we still expect the numbers to go up. This is a disease pattern we cannot predict.”

He said in the next week or two the numbers “would probably have gone three or four times or so”.

“This is just one man’s guess, it’s not even a projection.”

READ ALSO: Cameroonian Music Legend Manu Dibango Dies Of Coronavirus 

In a bid to stem the spread of the deadly virus, South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa announced a 21-day military-patrolled lockdown would be enforced from Thursday.

The pandemic had been slow to spread in Africa compared with other regions but the number of deaths and infections have started to increase, sparking concerns about the continent’s vulnerability to contagious diseases.

Africa now has more than 1,800 confirmed cases, according to the African Union’s Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

AFP

Scammers Use Coronavirus To Trick Fearful South Africans

 

South Africa’s central bank has warned citizens against scammers visiting homes to “recall” banknotes and coins they said were contaminated with the novel coronavirus.

The criminals carried fake identification badges and provided false receipts to victims, who were told they could exchange the slips for “clean” cash at any bank.

The bank said in a statement issued late Monday that it had “neither withdrawn any banknotes or coins nor issued any instruction to hand in banknotes or coins that may be contaminated”.

“There currently is no evidence that the COVID-19 virus is transmitted through the use of banknotes and coins,” said the statement.

To date, South Africa has recorded 62 cases, the second-highest number of coronavirus infections in Africa after Egypt.

Officially known as COVID-19, the virus has infected almost 180,000 people worldwide and killed more than 7,000.

President Cyril Ramaphosa has announced the closing of schools and banned public gatherings after numbers more than tripled over the weekend.

Foreign nationals from highly-affected countries will also be denied entry from Wednesday, as the majority of South Africa’s cases had recently travelled abroad.

Tricksters took advantage of nervous citizens on Monday, as many people remained home and rushed to supermarkets to stock up on groceries.

South Africa’s biggest private healthcare provider Netcare warned that thieves, masquerading as doctors screening for coronavirus, were going around trying to gain access into people’s homes.

“Criminals are going to homes in various areas claiming to be from Netcare… with door-to-door screening for COVID-19,” said a statement by the Netcare group.

“Please note that staff… are not doing door-to-door COVID-19 screening.”

-AFP

COVID-19: South Africa Virus Cases Fast Rising, Jump To 116

A man sprays commuters with hand sanitiser as a preventive measures at Wanderers taxi rank in Johannesburg CBD, on March 18, 2020. – African countries have been among the last to be hit by the global COVID-19 coronavirus epidemic but as cases rise, many nations are now taking strict measures to block the deadly illness. Michele Spatari / AFP.

 

South Africa on Wednesday recorded its highest 24-hour increase in coronavirus infections to date, with 31 new cases taking the country’s tally up to 116, government announced.

Africa’s most industrialised economy is the most affected in sub-Saharan Africa and second-most impacted on the continent after Egypt, which has recorded 196 cases.

The country’s first coronavirus infection, confirmed on March 5, was detected in a man who had arrived from Italy — the new centre of a pandemic that has infected more than 19,000 people worldwide and killed over 7,800.

“As of this morning, 18 March 2020, South Africa now has 116 confirmed cases of COVID-19,” Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said in a statement.

Of the new cases announced this week, six were children aged five or under.

Most of the people who have tested positive in South Africa had recently travelled to highly-affected countries in Europe and the Middle East.

But at least 14 internal transmissions were detected this week, raising fears the novel virus could spread into overcrowded townships with poor access to sanitation and little scope for self-isolation.

“Now we are seeing transmission between people in South Africa,” said Lynn Morris, a senior executive at the country’s National Institute for Communicable Diseases.

“What we are trying to avoid is seeing those clusters spreading into the community,” she explained on local radio, adding that the “true rate of transmission” was still unknown.

President Cyril Ramaphosa declared a state of national disaster after numbers more than tripled over the weekend.

READ ALSO: Facebook, Google In Talks With Washington To Track infections

“It is spreading, so it is necessary that we close ranks as we stand together,” Ramaphosa told reporters after meeting with opposition political party leaders on Wednesday.

Yet he warned that the impact on the economy would be “quite devastating” and described the situation as “unprecedented”.

South African Airways — the country’s debt-ridden national carrier — cancelled 162 flights scheduled to depart this month in response to low demand for air travel.

AFP

S.Africa Stock Market Tumbles As Coronavirus Restrictions Intensify

 

Cyril Ramaphosa delivers a speech during his inauguration as South African President, at Loftus Versfeld stadium in Pretoria, on May 25, 2019.

 

The Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE) plunged 12 percent on Monday as South Africa imposed tough restrictions after declaring a national state of disaster in a bid to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus.

President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that Africa’s most developed nation would close its borders from Wednesday to all foreigners from countries highly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Schools are closing down and gatherings of more than 100 people have been prohibited.

The JSE fell below 38,784 points on Monday, its lowest level since August 2013, following a downward trend in markets around the world sparked by concerns about the economic fallout of Covid-19.

The JSE Africa All-Share Index tumbled as much as 12 percent, while the rand currency lost 2.2 percent against the US dollar to trade at 16.64 rand.

Nedbank economist Nicky Weimar said South Africa’s economy and markets were being hit on multiple fronts by “weak demand (both locally and abroad), contained inflation, the volatile rand and an uncertain global environment due to the coronavirus.”

Shares in the industrial metals, food producers and mining industries also fell.

To date 62 people in South Africa have tested positive for the virus — the second-highest number of cases in Africa after Egypt, which has reported at least 110 cases.

South Africa’s economy has already been battered by internal factors such as power outages and weak business confidence.

It slumped into recession in the last quarter of 2019.

Economists forecast that the central bank will cut interest rates by at least 50 basis points.

Finance Minister Tito Mboweni on Monday said despite having funds available through the National Disaster fund, the country may need to set aside further funding to deal with the coronavirus outbreak.

The impact of the virus on an already struggling economy has piled pressure on Ramaphosa who took over from graft-tainted Jacob Zuma two years ago promising a new start.

“We are going through a period which we have never gone through since (end of apartheid in 1994),” he told reporters on Monday. “It is going to be a testing period on all of us”.

“It is going to have a negative impact on our economy, our economy which is already in technical recession”.

AFP

South Africans Returned From Coronavirus-Hit Wuhan

Workers wearing protective suit approach a South African Airways Airbus A340-600 plane on March 14, 2020 as it arrives in Polokwane, in Limpopo province, carrying South African citizens who have been repatriated from Wuhan, China. GUILLEM SARTORIO / AFP

 

South Africa repatriated dozens of its citizens from China on Saturday over the coronavirus, the health ministry said, the first such move by a sub-Saharan country.

The 146 South Africans were working and studying in Wuhan city, which was placed under lockdown for around two months after the novel virus was first detected in December.

READ ALSO: Left Behind But Not Broken – A Nigerian In Wuhan

They landed at Polokwane International Airport, in South Africa’s northern Limpopo province, where they will be quarantined in a remote resort for 21 days.

Passengers step into a bus on March 14, 2020 in Polokwane, in Limpopo province after disembarking from a South African Airways Airbus A340-600 plane carrying South African citizens who have been repatriated from Wuhan, China.  AFP

 

“Flight LMG 755 from Wuhan city has landed with the South African citizens,” said health ministry spokesman Popo Maja said.

“There are 146 South Africans on that flight, excluding the crew.”

The returnees will only be released after they get a clean bill of health at the end of the mandatory quarantine.

Government officials have assured that none of the group are infected by the virus and that the quarantine measures are only a precaution.

 

The entire screening, airlifting, quarantine operation is being led by the military.

Limpopo residents have criticised the government, claiming the quarantine site is endangering people living around the area.

South Africa has found 24 positive cases of coronavirus infections so far — the highest in sub-Saharan Africa.

No deaths have been recorded so far, and there have not yet been any restrictions on travel or public gatherings.

The coronavirus pandemic has infected more than 130,000 people worldwide and killed around 5,000.

AFP

Caster Semenya Switches To 200m In Search Of More Olympics Glory

South African 800-metre Olympic champion Caster Semenya reacts after winning the women’s 200m final during the Athletics Gauteng North Championships at the LC de Villiers Athletics Stadium in Pretoria on March 13, 2020.
Phill Magakoe / AFP

 

Star South African 800-metre athlete Caster Semenya said on Friday she hopes to compete in the 200m at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games.  

The 29-year-old is prohibited from defending her 800m Olympics title because she refuses to adhere to testosterone regulations set by governing body World Athletics.

Semenya, and other female athletes with differences of sexual development (DSD), are banned from competing in races between 400m and the mile unless they take testosterone-lowering medication.

She won the 2012 London and 2016 Rio Olympics 800m titles and was the world champion over the distance in 2009, 2011 and 2017.

The South African must clock a 22.80-second 200m to qualify for Tokyo and her best time, achieved Friday in Pretoria when winning a provincial championships final, is 23.49 sec.

“My dream has always been, and will continue to be, to compete at the highest level of sport,” Semenya said on her Instagram account.

“So in order to pursue my goals and dreams, I have decided to change events and compete in the 200m.

“This decision has not been an easy one, but I look forward to the challenge, and will work hard, doing all I can to qualify for Tokyo and compete to the best of my ability for South Africa.”

READ ALSO: German Football Authorities Suspend Bundesliga Over Coronavirus

Semenya took the athletics world by storm 11 years ago when becoming world champion in Berlin at the age of 19.

But as her list of successes lengthened, rival female athletes began to question how the South African could leave them trailing in her wake.

Semenya is among a minority of female athletes who have an unusually high level of testosterone, which gives them added strength.

The media-shy South African has faced constant legal battles during her career, leading to temporary bans from competing in her favourite 800m.

The latest testosterone regulations left her with a choice of competing in the 200m or a distance longer than the mile.

She has not returned impressive times over longer distances in the past, which prompted her to seek 200m qualification for Tokyo.

Semenya must trim another 0.69 sec off her Pretoria time to secure a place in the South African Olympics team.

The 200m world and Olympic records are held by American Florence Griffith-Joyner, who clocked 21.34 sec at the 1988 Seoul Olympics.

Away from athletics, Semenya joined a Johannesburg-based football club last year but was unable to play immediately because she missed the registration deadline.

AFP

South African President, Ramaphosa Cleared Of Graft Accusations

President of South Africa, Cyril Ramaphosa addresses a public meeting in the Western Cape Province. RODGER BOSCH / AFP

 

A South African court on Tuesday ruled in favour of President Cyril Ramaphosa in a probe of suspected money laundering and personal enrichment linked to his 2017 party leadership election campaign fund.

Judges dismissed an investigation by Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane, who had accused Ramaphosa of misleading parliament over his campaign financing.

In a damning report last year, Mkhwebane — South Africa’s ethics watchdog — published findings concerning a 500,000 rand ($31,460) donation to Ramaphosa’s campaign from a company that is facing extensive corruption allegations.

Ramaphosa initially told lawmakers the payment was to his son for consultancy work at the company, now known as African Global Operations (AGO).

He later backtracked and said it was a donation towards his campaign to become ANC party leader — a hard-fought battle in which he beat ex-president Jacob Zuma’s chosen candidate in 2017.

Mkhwebane accused Ramaphosa of deliberately misleading parliament for illegal purposes.

But the president dismissed the report and took the case to the High Court, which on Tuesday declared Mkhwebane’s findings as “unlawful”.

“There is simply no evidence that the president received personal financial benefit from any campaign contributions,” said judge Elias Matojane.

“Her findings on the money laundering issue were not only irrational but indeed reckless,” he said.

Ramaphosa’s office welcomed the sentence and reaffirmed its “commitment to honest and effective governance” on Twitter.

Mkhwebane’s spokesman Oupa Segalwe told AFP the Public Protector would “study the judgement” along with her legal team before “mapping the way forward”.

Mkhwebane was appointed Public Protector in 2016 and her term ends in 2023.

While her position is meant to investigate public corruption and misconduct, she has been criticised for being close to graft-tainted Zuma.

A handful of Mkhwebane’s other investigations have already been dismissed in court, and parliament is currently assessing her competency for the job.

A few months after winning the ANC leadership, Ramaphosa went on to become president after Zuma was entangled in graft scandals that forced him to step down in February 2018.

Ramaphosa led the ruling African National Congress (ANC) in the May 2019 national elections where the party won with a reduced majority.

He has vowed to crack down on high-level corruption that looted state coffers during Zuma’s nine-year administration.

The ANC remains bitterly split between Zuma and Ramaphosa’s supporters.

AFP

South Africa Reports Second Coronavirus Case

South Africa’s Minister of Health Zweli Mkhize addresses a media briefing on the coronavirus at the South African Parliament on March 5, 2020, in Cape Town, as the first case of the COVID-19 illness has been detected in the country.
RODGER BOSCH / AFP

 

South Africa on Saturday confirmed a second case the novel coronavirus, a 39-year-old woman who had travelled to Italy as part of a group with the first confirmed case.

The South African authorities said the woman, originally from the inland province of Gauteng, had come into direct contact with the first case from Kwa Zulu-Natal when they travelled back in a group of 10 from Italy on March 1.

On Thursday, the authorities said a man who was part of that group was the first case in the country.

“The second patient who has now tested positive for COV-19 will now be immediately admitted to a public health facility in Gauteng that the government has identified as one of the hospitals that are ready to receive COVID-19 positive patients,” the health ministry said in a statement.

READ ALSO: Iran Records 21 New Coronavirus Deaths, Raising Total To 145

The ministry assured the public it had managed to secure information on the whereabouts of all the other people in the group that had travelled to Italy.

The health ministry also confirmed that a 39-year-old South African man working in Daegu, South Korea, has also tested positive for COVID-19.

Authorities said the man, who was due to return to South Africa, would remain where he was until details of his treatment in South Korea were verified.

The African continent now has more than 30 confirmed cases, including in Egypt, Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia.

South Africa is meanwhile preparing to repatriate 184 of its citizens — comprising students, teachers and other professionals working in China’s Wuhan, the epicentre of the epidemic.

President Cyril Ramaphosa has urged South Africans not to panic but also cautioned about the potential impact of the outbreak on the country’s struggling economy.

AFP

South Africa Records First Case Of Coronavirus

(FILES) This file handout illustration image obtained February 3, 2020, courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and created at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC),  Lizabeth MENZIES / Centers for Disease Control and Prevention / AFP

 

South Africa on Thursday confirmed its first case of the novel coronavirus, a 38-year-old male who travelled to Italy, the health ministry announced.

It is the first case in southern Africa and the latest confirmed case in sub-Saharan Africa after Nigeria and Senegal.

“This morning,… the National Institute for Communicable Diseases confirmed that a suspected case of COVID-19 has tested positive,” Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said in a statement.

READ ALSO: Greece Records 21 New Coronavirus Cases

The case was detected in the country’s eastern Kwa-Zulu Natal province.

The patient and his wife were part of a group of 10 people who arrived back in South Africa from Italy on March 1.

Two days later, on March 3, he consulted a private general practitioner with a fever, headache, sore throat and a cough.

Italy has emerged as the European hotspot for the deadly virus with the national death toll at 107, the deadliest outbreak outside China.

More than 90,000 people have been infected and over 3,000 killed worldwide since the virus first emerged in China in December.

South Africa is preparing to repatriate 184 of its citizens — comprising students, teachers and other professionals working in China’s Wuhan, the epicentre of the epidemic.

The government’s information department also announced that two South Africans working on the cruise ship Diamond Princess who had initially tested positive for the virus, “have now tested negative and will shortly be making their way home”.