Health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize has announced that there are now 25,937 confirmed cases of coronavirus in South Africa.

This is an increase of 1,673 cases from the 24,264 cases reported on Tuesday, while the country recorded its previous highest 24-hour increase in infections – 1,240 cases – on Sunday.

Dr Mkhize said on Wednesday (27 May), that the total number of deaths has now reached 552 – an increase of 28 deaths from 524 reported before. There have been 13,451 recoveries.

The minister said that 634,996 tests have been conducted, with 29,005 tests in the past 24-hour cycle.

Globally, coronavirus cases topped 5.7 million globally on Wednesday, while deaths have exceeded 352,000, with more than 2.45 million recoveries.

Infrastructure Fund

South Africa plans to announce a $20.5 billion infrastructure programme after talks with the private sector and multilateral lenders as part of its attempt to recover from the coronavirus epidemic, Bloomberg reported.

The programme will focus on “network industries such as rail and ports, energy, broadband connectivity, water, sanitation and human settlements,” Paul Mashatile, the treasurer-general of the ruling African National Congress, said in a speech to London’s Chatham House.

“About 1.8 million jobs will be lost during this period, mostly among the youth,” Mashatile said.

“This is why we will have to push for massive infrastructure spending within labor-intensive sectors.”

South Africa has announced a R500 billion ($29 billion) stimulus programme to help the recovery of an economy the National Treasury forecasts may contract as much as 16% this year.

The country may need $100 billion to recover from the coronavirus outbreak, Mashatile said.

“Government is already in discussion with international partners such as the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the New Development Bank and the African Development Bank to raise $27 billion as part of our immediate response to the pandemic,” he said.

Funding Avenues

That figure is significantly higher than the Treasury’s estimate of about $5 billion it expects to get from international finance institutions.

“Government, through the Department of National Treasury, is exploring all funding avenues to finance all Covid-19 related programmes and measures aimed at addressing the pandemic,” the Treasury said in a response to questions.

“The funding avenues will not be limited locally, but will include exploring all global partners. Funding transactions will be announced officially once concluded.”

South Africa has in the past opposed borrowing money from the IMF and World Bank, saying such lending programs could compromise sovereignty.

The infrastructure project is being spearheaded by Kgosientso Ramokgopa, an official in the president’s offfice, Mashatile said.

“Cabinet is meeting today to discuss this and I expect an announcement on the list of projects to be made public within the week and even maybe as soon as tomorrow,” he said.

South Africa begins diesel rationing

South Africa has implemented diesel rationing, as demand recovered more quickly than expected after a lockdown to control the spread of coronavirus was eased, Bloomberg reported.

More than half of South Africa’s refining capacity was shut amid the lockdown, which started March 27, that restricted activity to essential services curbed demand. The nation eased those rules and some industries were allowed to start operations this month.

“The opening of the economy has resulted in a more rapid recovery than expected,” the South African Petroleum Industry Association said in a statement Tuesday.

“Stock rationing has been implemented to manage demand and to preserve supplies, and is expected to continue to the end of May,” it said.

Stockpiles of diesel are running low, the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy said in a reply to questions.

Unplanned equipment shutdowns were also a factor in the shortage, Sapia said. The Engen Durban refinery restarted May 16 and the country’s biggest oil facility, a joint venture between Royal Dutch Shell Plc and BP Plc known as Sapref, began to ramp up on 18 May.

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