554 confirmed coronavirus cases in South Africa

South Africa now has 554 confirmed cases of the COVID-19 coronavirus, according to Health Minister Zweli Mkhize.

Speaking at a media briefing on 24 March, Mkhize said that two patients were in critical condition in ICU in private hospitals.

So far, there have not been any deaths caused by the coronavirus.

“We expect these numbers to increase over the next week,” Mkhize said, adding that South Africans must not be shocked if they see the number of confirmed cases continue to climb.

Mkhize said that most of the new cases were in Johannesburg, with Gauteng now having 302 confirmed cases of the COVID-19 coronavirus.

“It will take a couple of weeks [of lockdown] to turn things around,” he said.

21-day lockdown

This follows after President Cyril Ramaphosa announced a nationwide lockdown for 21 days last night.

The lockdown will take effect from midnight on Thursday 26 March and will end on 16 April.

All South Africans must stay at home during the lockdown, he said.

Emergency services, security services, and other essentials services workers will be allowed to continue with their work, along with those involved in the production and supply of food and basic goods. This includes stores which sell food.

Companies in the energy provision, medical supply, laboratory, essential transport – including petrol stations – and essential financial services sectors will also continue to operate.

SA military forces will be deployed along with the SA Police to ensure the restrictions are adhered to.

The most effective way to prevent infections is through basic changes in hygiene and behaviour, said Ramaphosa.

“Staying at home is the preferred best defence against the virus,” he said.

Now read: Coronavirus testing – A first-hand account of what happened

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554 confirmed coronavirus cases in South Africa