Health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize has announced that there are now 15,515 confirmed cases of coronavirus in South Africa.

This is an increase of 1,160 cases from the 14,355 cases reported on Saturday, when the country recorded its highest daily total of 831 new infections.

Dr Mkhize said on Sunday (17 May), that the total number of deaths has now reached 264 – an increase of three deaths from 261 reported before.

The Western Cape has contributed 890 new cases, followed by the Eastern Cape, with 124 new infections reported over the past 24 hours.

The minister said that 460,873 tests have been conducted to date – 21,314 over the past 24-hours, while he highlighted a total of 7,006 recoveries to date.

Globally, coronavirus cases has surpassed 4.7 million infections, with deaths at more than 313,500, and 1,818,236 recoveries.

The increase in daily cases has exceeded 100,000 for the first time, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. New cases climbed by 100,200 on Friday, the fourth straight day of gains, according to the data.

Daily case increases were 97,500 on Thursday and 85,200 a day earlier. The previous one-day high was 99,100 on April 12, Bloomberg reported.

Covid-19 has sparked an unprecedented research mobilization, with developers globally working on as many as 100 experimental vaccines.

As nations rush to ease lockdowns and restart economies, concerns are growing that some will try to secure early supplies of a vaccine, the strongest bulwark against the spread of disease, for themselves, Bloomberg said.

Holes in the immunization shield create risks

Despite decades of progress against measles following the introduction of a shot in the 1960s, the World Health Organisation flagged a potential resurgence after 800,000 cases last year, largely due to unvaccinated pockets.

The coronavirus could do the same.

“If you have perfect control, but the countries around you don’t, the virus will move,” said Seth said Berkley, chief executive officer of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, an international organisation that aims to improve access to inoculations against deadly diseases.

“We’ve proven that now, time and time again.”

Back to school

Government is looking at staggered start dates for South African schools, based on their lockdown level and district, the Sunday Times reports.

While a number of the country’s schools are expected to begin reopening in June, the department wants schools in ‘hotspots’ such as Buffalo City, Cape Town, Johannesburg, Ekurhuleni, eThekwini, Mangaung and Nelson Mandela Bay to be regarded as being on lockdown level 5 and remain closed in June.

In parts of the country where fewer cases have been reported, the schools would be considered as being on level 3. Grade 7 and Grade 12 students at these schools would resume lessons from 1 June, while the rest of the grades would return on a staggered basis.

The Sunday Times reports that government is also considering a proposal that will allow different grades to attend school on different days of the week as part of social distancing measures.

The Department of Basic Education is expected to provide a full outline of when the country’s schools will open on Monday (18 May).


Read: Schools in Cape Town and Joburg could stay closed for longer: report