Health Minister Zweli Mkhize has updated the confirmed number of Covid-19 infections to 709, a 28% increase from yesterday. The Free State jumped because of 30 confirmed cases from a church in Bloemfontein. The Jerusalem Prayer Breakfast hosted by the Divine Restoration Ministries in Bloemfontein saw five Covid-19-infected foreigners from the US, Israel and France taking part. Government is still looking for some of the 300 people who were there.

President Cyril Ramaphosa’s spokesperson, Khusela Diko, said Meshoe was among the leaders of political parties represented in Parliament who had met Ramaphosa in Cape Town last Tuesday. Meshoe would therefore also have been with the leaders of other major parties, including the EFF’s Julius Malema and interim DA leader John Steenhuisen.

Most infections have come from people travelling abroad, which means that they have the means to test themselves. The majority of the 10,000 tests conducted in the country have come from private labs.

Government was negotiating with private labs to lower the cost of the tests, with the minister saying it was unacceptable for anyone to be “profiteering” during a health crisis.

“The testing and results delay has shortened. We’re trying to reduce the lag. The other issue is that the numbers of people who test is from the numbers of people who go to the doctor to test, and how fast the labs can test.” He added that the policy was not to test people on demand. “We’re doing tests on the basis of symptoms.” Government had already clarified this month that people wanting a test despite not showing any symptoms would have to pay for it themselves.

Globally, there were more than 420,000 recorded globally on Wednesday morning, with nearly 19,000 fatalities and about 110,000 recoveries.

On Tuesday, the infection figure was at 554, suggesting the country has been battling “community infection”, the point at which the outbreak becomes particularly difficult to contain without drastic measures.

A full nationwide lockdown comes into effect at midnight on Thursday, with South Africans only allowed to exit their homes for limited reasons, and only a specified group of essential workers allowed to move about for specified work reasons.

Measures included in the lockdown:

  • All South Africans will have to stay at home.
  • Exempted: health workers in public and private health sectors; emergency personnel; security services such as police and soldiers; those involved in the production and supply of food and basic goods; those working in essential services.
  • People will only be able to leave their homes to buy food, visit the pharmacy, or seek medical care; or to collect a social grant.
  • Shelters for homeless people will be identified, as well as quarantine areas for those who cannot self-isolate at home.
  • All businesses will close – only medical facilities pharmacies, laboratories, petrol stations and food stores will remain open;
  • Essential transport services will also continue.

Worldwide there have been 422,913 reported cases, with 18,905 deaths. 109,143 people have recovered, but 294,865 cases remain active, with 13,095 in serious or critical condition.