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  • One of the first South African vaccine trialists gets injected, Soweto, South Africa, June 24, 2020.

    One of the first South African vaccine trialists gets injected, Soweto, South Africa, June 24, 2020. | Photo: EFE

Published 3 July 2020
Opinion

Over 8,700 infections were confirmed Thursday, taking the country's total count to 168,061.

South Africa Friday reported its biggest single-day jump in coronavirus cases, as hospitals across the country brace for an onslaught of patients and officials warn of another strict lockdown. 

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On Thursday, over 8,700 infections were confirmed, taking the country's total count to 168,061, according to Health Ministry data, while deaths rose by 95 to 2,844. 

The surge comes as the government has allowed businesses to reopen in recent weeks to stave off economic disaster after a strict two-month stay-at-home order worsened already high unemployment and drastically increased hunger.

In the country’s largest city of Johannesburg, officials said they were considering reimposing some restrictions to try to slow the quickening spread of the virus.

"We're seeing a spike in infections in Johannesburg. The number of people that we are diagnosing daily now is absolutely frightening," said Shabir Madhi, professor of vaccinology at Johannesburg's University of the Witwatersrand, who is leading a vaccine trial in South Africa in cooperation with the United Kingdom's University of Oxford.

"Who we are finding positive now is an indication of who will be in hospital three weeks from now," he was quoted as saying by The Associated Press. 

Health Minister Zwelini Mkhize said the government could impose another strict lockdown if coronavirus infections and deaths continued to rise.

"If in the future, there is a need for another lockdown, we will not hesitate to go that route. Right now, there is no such decision taken," Mkhize told local media.

At the end of March, South Africa's President Cyril Ramaphosa announced one of the toughest lockdowns in the world, banning anyone but essential workers from leaving home except to buy food or medicine. At the time, South Africa had recorded just 400 cases.

Sales of alcohol and cigarettes were banned, while citizens were also restricted from exercising outside their homes or going to places of worship.

The country started slowly reopening parts of the economy from May and again in June but infections have started to spike again. 

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