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SA's number of COVID-19 cases lower than expected - Mkhize

Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said that thousands more were expected to have been infected by now and this was encouraging.

Health Minister Zweli Mkhize at an inter-ministerial briefing on 24 March 2020 detailing how government will respond ahead of and during the 21-day lockdown announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa. Picture: Kayleen Morgan/EWN.

DURBAN - The number of people who have succumbed to COVID-19 in the country has continued to increase but not at the rate that was expected.

Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said that five people had now died after being infected with the virus, with the latest person being a 46-year-old woman from Umlazi.

Mkhize said that the number of new infections had increased by 46, with the latest figure of confirmed cases standing at 1,353.

WATCH: Ministers give an update on day 5 of COVID-19 lockdown

He said that thousands more were expected to have been infected by now and this was encouraging. But the minister said it was still early days. Mkhize said we’re not far behind the infection, but the important thing now would be to jump on any possible localised outbreaks as soon as possible.

The minister said that four provinces had now recorded COVID-19 fatalities.

"The first one was in the Western Cape, a 48-year-old female, the other one was in the Free State, an 88-year-old male, the other was in Gauteng and two in KwaZulu-Natal."

Mkhize said that with 39,500 patients tested, the country was expanding its capacity to test more people and ensure access to the medical care by those who needed it.

"We have increased the capacity and found more equipment to create more capacity that allows us to test as many people [as possible]."

Mkhize said that while around 4,000 infections were expected by this week, government was still working hard to increase the number of beds at public facilities.

CHANGE IN BEHAVIOUR

Mkhize said that life would not go back to normal when South Africa completed its 21 days of a national lockdown. There will be a gradual process of normalisation to ensure the virus doesn't resurge, combined with intense monitoring and testing.

He said that South Africans would need to adjust their behaviour so that the country could succeed in the fight against the spread of the coronavirus.

In terms of models government is working off, they had been anticipating 4,000 to 5,000 confirmed infections by 2 April. But it is still too early to infer from this that the interventions are working. It is all dependent on the flattening of the curve.

The minister said that strict policies restricting the movement of people in a bid to contain the spread of COVID-19 had been successful in China and South Korea.

He said South Africans would have to emulate the citizens of these countries if they wanted to win the war against the virus.

"Whatever happens after the 21 days, we must know our behaviour must change completely. If we take all the lessons from the other countries, we'll be able to make a huge impact."

Mkhize said the country has improved its virus testing processes in an attempt to detect more cases before the flu season.

He reiterated the call for South Africans to adhere to the conditions of the national lockdown, saying this was for the greater good of society.

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