South Africa braces for lockdown as coronavirus cases spike to 554

The number of coronavirus cases in South Africa increased by 152 to 554 within 24 hours.

The country has the highest number of cases in Africa but no death has been recorded.

On Monday, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced a 21-day lock down to curb the spread of the outbreak.

“From midnight on Thursday, March 26 until midnight on Thursday, April 16, all South Africans will have to stay at home,” Ramaphosa said.

“This is a decisive measure to save lives of South Africans from infections and to save lives of hundreds of thousands of our people.

“While this measure will have a considerable impact on people’s livelihoods, on the life of our society and on our economy, the human cost of delaying this action would be far, far greater. ”

The president, however, said people will still be able to leave their homes to seek medical care, buy food or collect a social grant.

All shops and businesses are to close, with the exemption of pharmacies, laboratories, banks, the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, supermarkets, petrol stations and healthcare providers.

Health workers, emergency personnel and security services will be allowed to work, while soldiers will be deployed to patrol the streets in support of the police.

There are fears that the lock down could be disastrous for the economy as the country is currently battling its second recession in two years.

Zweli Mkhize, health minister of the country, said health workers are working to expand the country’s testing capacity.

“They will also develop a plan to ensure there are enough intensive care beds with respirators, ” he said at a media briefing.

“The numbers, we mustn’t be shocked when we see them increase but these measures if we all work together must turn the curve around.”

The minister also noted that South Africa could reach an inflection point in its infection curve two or three weeks after its lock down restrictions enter into force.

“Two patients are in intensive care, but there have been no deaths from coronavirus in the country,’’ Mkhize said.

On his part, Thoko Didiza, minister of agriculture, said the government had taken steps to ensure the lock down would not affect food security.

He said the government would be monitoring food retailers to ensure sellers do not inflate prices.

There are over 1300 cases of the disease in Africa spread across 44 countries.