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South African health system under strain as coronavirus cases surge

World News | Published:

Confirmed cases have climbed to more than 177,000, with a record 9,063 reported in the most recent 24-hour period.

Virus Outbreak South Africa Surge

South Africa has reported another record daily increase in confirmed coronavirus cases as the health system comes under strain.

More than 11 million people around the world are now known to have been infected since the pandemic began, 2.7 million of those in the US, according to data from experts at Johns Hopkins University.

In South Africa, a growing hotspot as the pandemic picks up speed in parts of Africa, confirmed cases have climbed to more than 177,000, with a record 9,063 reported in the most recent 24-hour period.

Around 30% of cases are in Gauteng province, home of Johannesburg and the capital, Pretoria, as the country loosens lockdown measures under economic pressure.

(PA Graphics)
(PA Graphics)

If Africa’s most developed country is struggling to manage the pandemic, that is ominous for less-prepared African nations. Confirmed cases across the 54-nation continent are now above 433,000.

Russia marked a milestone as the death toll rose above 10,000. The national coronavirus taskforce also reported 6,632 new infections, raising the total for the outbreak to 674,515.

Russia’s caseload is the world’s third largest behind the United States and Brazil, but its reported deaths are lower than many other countries. Officials have denied speculation that the figures are being manipulated.

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Elsewhere, authorities targeted communities for special measures as virus clusters emerged.

Australia’s Victoria state locked down nine public housing towers and three more Melbourne suburbs after 108 new cases.

Premier Daniel Andrews said 3,000 people in the towers will go into “hard lockdown,” meaning “there will be no one allowed in … and no one allowed out”.

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Authorities in north-east Spain ordered the lockdown of El Segria county around the city of Lleida, home to over 200,000 people, after health officials recorded a jump in 60 cases in 24 hours. The outbreaks are linked to agricultural workers in the rural area.

France said it is sending medics to its South American territory of French Guiana to help treat growing numbers of patients in a region where half the population lives below the French poverty level. Infections surged as the virus swept neighbouring Brazil.

Of the roughly 5,000 new cases confirmed across France over the past week, 1,400 were in French Guiana, with a population of just 300,000, according to the health agency.

Virus Outbreak South Africa Surge
A man walks beneath a sign advising precautions people should take to prevent the spread of coronavirus in Cape Town (Nardus Engelbrecht/AP)

The military is flying patients from saturated facilities to the French Caribbean island of Martinique for treatment.

In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel said that “the way our country reacted to the pandemic has largely proved to be right”.

The country has over 190,000 confirmed cases and has started testing asymptomatic people in care homes.

Mrs Merkel paid tribute to the elderly, who like elsewhere in the world, have been particularly hard hit. They also have faced loneliness.

“The most painful thing was surely not to be able to see children and grandchildren for many weeks,” she said.

A sign at a closed entrance to the beach in the South Beach neighbourhood of Miami Beach, Florida
A sign at a closed entrance in the South Beach neighbourhood of Miami Beach, Florida (Lynne Sladky/AP)

The Fourth of July holiday weekend in the US began on Saturday with some sobering numbers in the Sunshine State, as Florida logged a record number of people testing positive for coronavirus.

State health officials reported 11,445 new cases, a single-day record since the pandemic began earlier this year.

The latest count brings the total number of cases in the state to more than 190,000. A website maintained by the Department of Health shows an additional 245 hospitalisations from the outbreak.

Local officials and health experts are worried that people will gather over the holiday weekend and spread the virus through close contact.

They have tried to mitigate spread by shutting bars statewide.

Some regional attractions, such as Zoo Miami and Jungle Island, have closed. Universal Studios in Orlando is open.

Mayor Carlos Gimenez closed Miami-Dade County beaches through the weekend, while municipalities elsewhere in south Florida, from Vero Beach to Broward County, did the same. Beaches in the Florida Keys are also closed. Public beaches along Pinellas County’s 35 miles of sand are open.

Local visitors in a park next to Antoni Gaudí’s La Sagrada Familia Basilica in Barcelona
Local visitors in a park next to La Sagrada Familia basilica in Barcelona (Emilio Morenatti/AP)

In Spain, Barcelona’s famous La Sagrada Familia basilica reopened its doors for visits exclusively for health workers after being closed for nearly four months due to the pandemic.

The basilica invited a first group of health workers on Saturday to visit the site designed by architect Antoni Gaudi.

More will be able to visit on Sunday and on July 11-12 during a reopening phase the church is calling an “homage” to doctors, nurses and other medical professionals.

That will be followed by a second phase just for residents of Barcelona. The church says it is still waiting to announce when visitors from outside the city will be permitted entry.

La Sagrada Familia is Barcelona’s top tourist site, with 4.5 million visitors in 2019.

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