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UPDATE: COVID-19 deaths at 5, cases at 1,353 in SA

Minister Zweli Mkhize addressed the media in Durban, saying the spread of the virus was not as rapid as expected.

Health Minister Zweli Mkhize. Picture: Abigail Javier/EWN.

DURBAN - Health Minister Zweli Mkhize on Tuesday said the number of COVID-19 deaths in South Africa now stood at five.

Mkhize addressed the media in Durban, saying the spread of the virus was not as rapid as expected.

“At this stage, we have the number of coronavirus confirmed cases standing at 1,353, which is an increase of about 46 from the last reported figure yesterday,” he said.

The minister gave a breakdown of the cases: “This gives us 633 cases in Gauteng - which is the highest, 325 in the Western Cape, 179 in KwaZulu-Natal, 74 in the Free State, eight in the North West, 12 in Mpumalanga, 14 in Limpopo and 12 in Eastern Cape and six in Northern Cape. We still have the unallocated cases.”

Mkhize said despite huge backlogs at lab services, 39,500 tests had been conducted as the country observed the fifth day of a 21-day lockdown in a bid to contain the outbreak.

"The rate of increase is not as high as anticipated," Mkhize said. "We are observing the trend. We anticipated 4,000-5,000 but we haven't reached that."

He said the people who had died from coronavirus were a 48-year-old woman with underlying issues and a 74-year-old man both from KwaZulu-Natal, an 85-year-old man from the Free State, a Gauteng man, and a 46-year-old woman with chronic asthma from the Western Cape.

Mhkize attributed a large part of the lower than expected infection numbers to the closure of ports of entry, saying up to last week, 70% of positive cases were passengers coming into the country.

President Cyril Ramaphosa's government has since last Friday morning enforced a nationwide military-patrolled lockdown for 21 days.

Police said they have made hundreds of arrests of people violating the lockdown.

South Africa, which has the highest numbers of confirmed coronavirus infections on the continent, will start mass door-to-door screening and testing for coronavirus within the next few days.

For official information about COVID-19 from the Department of Health, please click here.