South Africa’s coronavirus cases jumped again to 709, the health minister said Wednesday, as the country with the most cases in Africa prepared to go into lockdown first thing Friday.
Health Minister Zweli Mkhize announced the new number on state television and pointed out a worrying cluster of cases in Free State province among attendees of a church gathering where five cases were reported. All were in people who had recently traveled abroad.
Cases across Africa are now well above 2,400. With Libya announcing its first case, 44 of the continent’s 54 countries now have the virus.
Those that have not recorded cases are Mali, Guinea-Bissau, Sierra Leone, South Sudan, Burundi, Malawi, Botswana, Comoros, Lesotho and Sao Tome and Principe, according to the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Some have the most fragile health systems on the continent.
Congo became the latest country to close its borders while reporting its third death. The sprawling nation has one of Africa’s weakest health systems and has been battling another global health emergency, a deadly Ebola virus outbreak in the east.
While that outbreak now appears to be within days of being declared over, Congo also faces a large measles outbreak.
For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.