South Africa hits 500,000 COVID-19 cases, still not at peak

South Africa on Saturday surpassed 500,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases, representing more than 50 per cent of all reported coronavirus infections in Africa’s 54 countries.

COVID-19 patients being treated with oxygen at the Tshwane District Hospital in Pretoria, South Africa on July 10. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay, File)

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 US, Brazil, Russia and India, all countries with significantly higher populations, according to 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.

“Half a million is a significant milestone, because it shows we’ve entered a stage of rapid increases. We may reach one million cases very quickly,” said Denis Chopera, a virologist based in Durban. “What we know for sure is that the figures are an underestimate and that this virus will be with us for a long time to come.”

–AP