Health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize has announced that there are now 14,355 confirmed cases of coronavirus in South Africa.

This is an increase of 831 cases from the 13,524 cases reported on Friday, when the country recorded its previous highest daily total of 785 new infections.

Dr Mkhize said on Saturday (16 May), that the total number of deaths has now reached 261– an increase of 14 deaths from 247 reported before.

The minister said that 439,559 tests have been completed to date, with 18,004 tests completed in the last 24 hours, while 6,478 recoveries have been reported.

Note: The Department of Health originally reported that the number of deaths increased to 259. This has since been revised upwards to 261 deaths.

Globally, coronavirus cases have moved beyond 4.64 million infections, with deaths exceeding 309,000, and recoveries at around 1.75 million.

People who live in crowded or poorer areas are more likely to test positive for Covid-19, according to a UK study of infection in the general population, Bloomberg reported.

Chronic kidney disease may also be linked to the viral illness, according to the report published Friday in The Lancet Infectious Diseases journal that analyzed results from about 3,800 people tested for Covid-19 in the UK.

As the coronavirus has spread around the globe, most research has focused on patients hospitalized with severe, sometimes life-threatening infections.

The study delved into a grey area – people treated by general practitioners and primary care doctors who may be quite ill, but were seen outside hospitals or emergency rooms.

The study also found the infection was more likely in people who are older, obese, black or male, characteristics that have emerged in earlier research.

Smoking was linked to a lower likelihood of a positive test result, but that doesn’t mean the practice offers protection against infection, the authors said.

Among the possible explanations: smoking may hamper the sensitivity of the test or smokers may be more likely than nonsmokers to have an ongoing cough and get tested for the virus. Smoking could increase the severity of Covid-19, they said.

Drink makers meet with government

Converting bars into beer-collection points and staggering liquor-store opening hours: Just two of the proposals put to South Africa’s government by drinks makers desperate to lift a 50-day ban on alcohol sales, Bloomberg reported.

Industry leaders met with government officials on Friday and had “open-minded, collaborative and constructive talks” about how to resume trading alongside a broader easing of a lockdown to contain the coronavirus, Richard Rushton, CEO of wine and spirits maker Distell Group said.

Alcoholic drinks may be available by the end of the month, he said, though details on how to trade safely have yet to be finalized.

The so-called booze ban – imposed on March 27 to reduce the temptation for social gatherings and ease pressure on hospital emergency wards – has helped South Africa earn a reputation as having one of the strictest lockdowns in the world.

Tobacco products are also banned, while citizens are only allowed to exercise outdoors between 6am and 9am more than two months after the country’s first case of Covid-19 was discovered.

The tight restrictions have been hailed as a success, with the country’s 219 recorded fatalities a fraction of the deaths suffered in many other countries such as Italy and Spain.

But the move has come at a cost, with millions expected to have lost their jobs amid a deep economic contraction.

As many as 80,000 small businesses ranging from farmers to craft brewers may be on the verge of collapse as a direct result of the alcohol ban, Rushton said.

Read: Is South Africa’s ban on tobacco and liquor unlawful and irrational? – legal experts answer