Health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize on Saturday (28 March) announced that the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in South Africa has hit 1,187 – an increase of 17 cases since Friday’s report.

Mkhize said that the increase in results does not indicate a reduction in the number of infections, but merely a reflection of positive results that were available for today’s reporting.

Gauteng has just over half of all cases in the country, with 553, followed by the Western Cape with 271 and KwaZulu-Natal with 156.

The National Institute for Communication Diseases (NICD) explained that it is actively cleaning Covid-19 patient data to ensure that the information is verified and accurate.

“Data cleaning is required to conduct deduplication of contents and to correct details of patients in order to determine the most effective public health intervention,” it said.

“As such, figures may not always add up sequentially due to the activities being performed with regard to data cleaning and quality assurance of the dataset.”

This means that the number of Covid-19 cases actually increased by 112 bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 1,187, the NICD said.

Health workers 

Mkhize also raised concerns with the number of health workers who have been infected by the virus.

“We have noted with concern a number of confirmed Covid-19 cases of health workers who work both in the private and public hospitals,” he said. 

“This includes doctor and nurses. We mention this because health workers are in the frontline of this battle. They are exposed not only to their families but to the patients who they are meant to treat.”

Some of the confirmed Covid-19 cases that involve health workers are as follows:

  • In Limpopo, a medical doctor tested positive after he had travelled abroad for holiday started experiencing symptoms on his return. He immediately decided to quarantine himself. This young doctor remained in quarantine to ensure that he does not transmit the virus to other people. His 14 day quarantine period has ended and we are pleased to report that his results have now been confirmed negative;
  • In Mpumalanga, a medical doctor who had also travelled for a holiday abroad returned to the Province with symptoms which emerged a few days after he returned. Before then, he had been having interactions with staff and patients. He then tested positive and was quarantined. This led to other health workers who had come into contact with him to be screened, quarantined and tested. A decision was also made for that section of the hospital to be closed in order to disinfect it. This has been completed and it will be reopening during the course of next week;
  • In Free State, we have received a report that three doctors, one nurse and one neurophysicist have tested positive for Covid-19;
  • In Gauteng, six medical doctors have been infected in Gauteng. All these health workers are in a good medical condition with most of them having mild or no symptoms. It is only one doctor in the Free State aged 70, who is in ICU.

“It must be emphasised that none of these health workers were infected by patients that they were treating,” said Mkhize. 

“They came into contact with their family members, friends and other colleagues who had tested positive for Covid-19. All individuals who were identified as contacts of these health workers have been put in quarantine and are being monitored.”

Provincial breakdown

Globally, coronavirus cases have reached 650,773, with 30,299 deaths recorded and 139,555 recoveries to date.

Bloomberg reported that the US leapfrogged Italy and China for the most coronavirus cases worldwide, fueled by a large jump in New York, while governors of some of the hardest-hit states said the biggest federal stimulus program in history didn’t go far enough for areas facing unprecedented financial pressure brought on by the pandemic.

The virus rampaged across Europe, killing hundreds of people in Italy and Spain each day, while UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson tested positive for the infection and remains in self-isolation in Downing Street. It claimed the life of an African musical legend, Manu Dibango, at the age of 86.

US cases climbed to 104,256, with Italy passing China with 86,498 cases.

Spain reported record coronavirus fatalities for a second day as the daily mortality rate neared that of Italy with governments across Europe considering additional measures to contain a pandemic that shows little sign of abating.

Spain said 832 people died from coronavirus in the last 24 hours, its deadliest day since the outbreak began, while Italy on Friday reported a record toll of 969. The two countries have almost 15,000 deaths combined, more than half the world total.

Spain and Italy have been in almost total lockdown, Bloomberg reported.

South Africans continued to flout lockdown laws on day two, despite warnings and pleas from the government to stay at home.

Police minister Bheki Cele conceded that more needs to be done in relation to the buying of goods – with people not adhering to social distancing. He said that his department is in consultation on how to address this.

The police minister warned South Africans: “If you don’t join us to walk with us, we will pull you to walk with us.”

South Africa is also facing additional headwinds after ratings firm Moody’s downgraded the country’s credit rating to below investment grade, late Friday evening.

Moody’s downgraded South Africa’s long term foreign and local currency debt ratings to ‘Ba1’ from ‘Baa3’ with a negative outlook.

The National Treasury said the negative outlook reflects the risk that economic growth will prove even weaker and the debt burden will rise even faster and further than currently expected, weakening debt affordability and potentially, access to funding.

“The decision by Moody’s could not have come at a worse time. South Africa, like many other countries, is seized with containing the outbreak of the coronavirus (Covid-19),” the National Treasury said.

“It is with a heavy heart to note that all three major credit ratings agencies currently rate South Africa at sub-investment grade. However, every crisis presents an opportunity,” said finance minister, Tito Mboweni.

“The opportunity we have today is to unite and work together to address our challenges. We as a people have overcome insurmountable challenges in the past and we can still overcome. We shall rise. We have to rise. We owe it to ourselves.”

Read: South Africa is fully junked – what happens now?