JOHANNESBURG — South Africa on Saturday surpassed 500,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases, representing more than 50% of all reported coronavirus infections in Africa’s 54 countries.
Health Minister Zwelini Mkhize announced 10,107 new cases Saturday night, bringing the country’s cumulative total to 503,290, including 8,153 deaths.
South Africa, with a population of about 58 million, has the fifth-highest number of cases in the world, behind the U.S., Brazil, Russia and India, all countries with significantly higher populations, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University. Experts say the true toll of the pandemic worldwide is much higher than confirmed cases, due to limited testing and other reasons.
South Africa’s Gauteng province — which includes Johannesburg, the country’s largest city and Pretoria, the capital — is the country’s epicenter with more than 35% of its confirmed cases. Local hospitals have been struggling to cope, and health experts say the country could reach the peak of its outbreak in late August or early September.
Cape Town, a city beloved by international tourists at the country’s southern tip, was the first epicenter and reached its peak last month, according to health experts.
Most patients with COVID-19 have mild to moderate symptoms. However, in a small proportion of patients, COVID-19 can lead to more severe illness, including death, particularly among those who are older or those who have chronic medical conditions.
COVID-19 spreads primarily through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.
Symptoms include fever, cough, and difficulty breathing. Symptoms appear within 14 days of being exposed to an infectious person.
Virginia health officials urged the following precautions:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
- Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer only if soap and water are not available.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when coughing or sneezing.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
- Stay home when you are sick.
- Avoid contact with sick people.
- Avoid non-essential travel.