UPDATE: SA’s first Covid-19 death: Cape-based women aged 48 – infections rise to 1,170

The initial report from the Health Ministry recorded two Covid-19 related deaths, as per the initial story. A more recent statement from the Ministry however says the 28-year old woman didn’t die from Covid-19, hence bringing the total reported deaths from the virus down to one.

By Mike Cohen and Paul Vecchiatto

(Bloomberg) – South Africa began a three-week lockdown aimed at curbing the spread of the coronavirus on Friday as the disease claimed its first victim in the country and the number of infections passed 1,100.

City streets were largely empty as residents heeded government orders to stay home. Long queues of people formed outside stores in some townships however, with many people unable to shop ahead of the lockdown because they were only paid on Friday.

Troops have been deployed to help the police ensure people only go out to buy food and medicine, seek medical help and collect welfare grants – unless they provide essential services. Fifty-five people were arrested on Thursday night for breaking the lockdown rules, including a ban on alcohol sales, Police Minister Bheki Cele told reporters in Pretoria, the capital.

The lockdown could be extended. The deployment of 2,820 troops will run from March 26 to June 26, and is expected to cost R641m ($37m), President Cyril Ramaphosa said in a letter to parliament dated March 25.

Not all the troops have been deployed and their numbers may be increased in areas of the central Gauteng province where the rules are being flouted, Defense Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula said.Infections have increased at a rapid pace since the first one was detected on March 5, with the number of confirmed cases standing at 1,170, health ministry data shows. South Africa now has the most cases on the continent.

Rand slumps

The rand extended a decline on news of the fatality and increased incidence of the virus, weakening 1.5% to 17.5779 per dollar by 9:15pm in Johannesburg. Yields on 10-year government bonds jumped 17 basis points to 11.62%.

A 48 year-old woman who was infected with the virus and had another underlying medical condition died in a hospital in the Western Cape Province on Friday morning, the health ministry said in a statement. Another 28 year-old woman who it initially said had died from the illness later tested negative.

Other developments:

  • The Breitbridge border post between South Africa and Zimbabwe was heavily congested, with long line of vehicles waiting to cross. While the border was only open for cargo, many people ignored travel restrictions, Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula said.
  • State power utility Eskom said demand for power plummeted as mines and factories shut or scaled back operations.
  • The Unemployment Insurance Fund has made R30bn available to support workers who lose their jobs because of the virus, the country’s biggest step yet to cushion the economic fallout.
  • Exports of hand sanitiser, face masks and medical supplies needed to combat the virus will be restricted, Trade and Industry Minister Ebrahim Patel said.

First South Africa Covid-19 related deaths

By Ana Monteiro

(Bloomberg) – South Africa recorded the first two deaths resulting from the novel coronavirus and the number of infections has passed the 1,000 mark, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said.

The deaths occurred in the Western Cape province, he said in an emailed statement Friday.

Statement by Western Cape Premier Alan Winde:

A few short months ago, the world learned of a virus that was spreading rapidly through the province of one country, leaving little in its wake but chaos and mourning.

Since then, we have seen this virus get its own name – Covid-19 – and we have seen it spread from village to village, town to town and country to country. And while we have learnt that many experience only mild symptoms, some none at all, for others, the effect has been severe, and the world has lost many lives.

South Africa, and the Western Cape, has not been spared. On the 11th of March, Covid-19 arrived in our province. Today, we woke up to the sad news that we, too, have seen our first casualties. A 28 year-old woman and 48 year-old woman both passed away this morning.

The 48 year-old woman’s condition worsened while in ICU, and she passed away this morning.

The 28 year-old was admitted to hospital yesterday and received emergency healthcare. She also passed away this morning. The clinical picture is consistent with Covid-19 but we are awaiting the test results to confirm this.

We mourn this loss as a province and as a country. Our thoughts are with the family and loved ones of the deceased. I would like to ask all our residents to join me in a moment of silence at midday today, as we mark the loss, and celebrate their lives.

As we all strive to stop its spread, by each making the decision to stay at home until it becomes absolutely necessary to pop out for absolute essentials, let’s have in our minds the lives we will each save if we all work together. We are staying home for ourselves, our family and friends, our grandmas and grandpas, for the healthcare workers who are facing this virus head on and need our help to flatten the curve, and for our fellow men and women across South Africa.

It is up to each of us. Together, let’s stop the spread.

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