COVID-19 WRAP | Trump cuts his losses and walks away from WHO, nearly 2,000 new Covid-19 cases in SA

29 May 2020 - 08:11
By TimesLIVE
Trade and industry minister Ebrahim Patel said SA has started supplying and exporting PPEs to neighbouring countries and the rest of Africa.
Image: GCIS Trade and industry minister Ebrahim Patel said SA has started supplying and exporting PPEs to neighbouring countries and the rest of Africa.

May 29 2020 - 22:01

Nearly 2,000 new Covid-19 cases in SA

The number of Covid-19 cases in SA increased by 1,837 in the past 24 hours, health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize said on Friday.

This means that there are now 29,240 confirmed cases across SA, with the Western Cape (18,906 — or 64.6%) still the epicentre.

Mkhize said that there were also an additional 34 deaths recorded, taking the death toll to 611.

He was speaking at a media briefing on Friday.

May 29 2020 - 21:46

Trump says US 'terminating' relationship with WHO

President Donald Trump said Friday he was breaking off US ties with the World Health Organisation, which he says failed to do enough to combat the initial spread of the novel coronavirus.

Trump had already suspended funding to the UN agency, accusing it of being a "puppet" of China as the global health crisis erupted.

May 29 2020 - 21:25

'Expect cases to rise' as SA eases lockdown: Prof Abdool Karim

As the country gets ready for a further easing of the lockdown, the number of Covid-19 cases is expected to increase.

Speaking at a health department briefing on Friday night, Prof Salim Abdool Karim, a leading clinical infectious diseases epidemiologist and government adviser, said SA's Covid-19 infection rate doubled almost every two days before the lockdown was put into place.

But then under the lockdown, this “doubling rate” lessened to 15 days but  as the lockdown eased from level 5 to level 4, the “doubling rate” time got shorter.

May 29 2020 - 20:18

SA targeting 2,000 quarantine sites with 130,000 beds

The department of public works and infrastructure has identified 1,751 quarantine facilities across the country.

Of these quarantine sites, 642 are state-sponsored while the rest are privately owned with a combined 129, 600 beds.

A lion’s share of the beds (27,500) are reserved for the Western Cape, which is currently the country’s Covid-19 epicentre.

May 29 2020 - 19:50

WATCH LIVE | Mkhize outlines Covid-19 interventions as SA moves to level 3

May 29 2020 - 18:58

DA wins first round in protracted court battle around legitimacy of Covid-19 command council

The DA has welcomed a Constitutional Court directive, handed down on Friday, saying it will consider arguments in its application for direct access to challenge the Covid-19 Disaster Management Act.

This means the highest court of the land has given the opposition party the green light to try to convince it to hear its plea.

May 29 2020 - 18:56

Eskom has beefed up energy security in lockdown, says Gwede Mantashe

Energy and mineral resources minister Gwede Mantashe has said that the supply of energy will be critical to revive the economy, adding that Eskom has made the most of the lockdown.

The electricity utility has managed to beef up energy security owing to a low demand during the lockdown.

This comes as most businesses reopen for the first time since March on Monday.

May 29 2020 - 18:54

From the coronavirus frontline, doctors recall battling SA's HIV outbreak

A deadly virus was ravaging South Africa when Belgian doctor Eric Goemaere first set foot in Cape Town's sprawling Khayelitsha township on a chilly southern hemisphere winter of 1999.

By then HIV had infected more than 5.6 million South Africans, causing thousands of deaths from acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) -- for which there is still no cure.

"There was a traffic jam every day at the cemetary," Goemaere recalled.

"People were dying like flies... There was no accessible treatment so the sick simply went to church."

May 29 2020 - 18:52

Backlogs in Covid-19 tests at public sector laboratories make it difficult to identify hotspots

There has been a backlog in the testing of samples for Covid-19 by public laboratories in the past few weeks, the National Institute for Communicable Diseases said.

The NICD, in its report summarising the national laboratory testing for SARS-Cov2 (the virus causing Covid-19) for the period up to May 23, said the delays in laboratory testing affected the analysis of the testing data and the identification of outbreak hotspots.

The NICD said the number of days it takes for the collection of a sample and reporting of results in the public sector increased from 2.5 days to eight days, from week 17 to week 21, as a result of laboratory testing backlogs.

May 29 2020 - 18:51

Northern exposure tiny, but it's a Cape of carnage south of the border

The Western Cape and Northern Cape share a lengthy border but their experience of Covid-19 is worlds apart.

May 29 2020 - 18:50

Staff at 32 Western Cape schools have Covid-19, says education MEC

Thirty-seven staff at 32 schools in the Western Cape have tested positive for Covid-19, education MEC Debbie Schäfer said on Friday.

The Metro East and Metro South districts in Cape Town are worst affected, and two rural districts — Eden and Central Karoo, and Overberg — have no cases.

May 29 2020 - 18:35

Back to school rules: Must be at 50% capacity and pupils must be 1.5m apart

When schools open across SA, they may only operate at 50% capacity.

In regulations gazetted on Friday, the basic education department said that social distancing measures had to be in place at schools. This meant all pupils, teachers and other staff had to keep 1.5m apart.

“To ensure compliance with health, safety and social distancing requirements, school facilities must operate at 50% of their capacity or less at any given time,” the regulations state.

May 29 2020 - 17:38

Here are the back to school dates for all grades

It'll be a month after grade 12 and 7 pupils go back to school that their mates can start to join them in the classroom.

This is according to return-to-school dates gazetted on Friday.

May 29 2020 - 17:23

Government to 'turn its attention' to hairdressers, salons under level 3

A solution for hairdressers, nail salons and other personal care businesses may soon be in sight, with trade and industry minister Ebrahim Patel saying focus would now shift to this sector.

He said because these businesses cannot take place without some kind of physical contact, making sure they open safely will be vital.

“We’ve seen that as companies and industries reopen, even the ones where workers don’t have to work in physical contact with each other, there has been an increase in infections. At some stage, this translates to more South Africans dying. It is a very serious and very critical issue in which we need to work cautiously and carefully,” Patel said on Friday during an economic cluster briefing on level 3 restrictions.

May 29 2020 - 16:54

Public activist heads to court to support call to uplift tobacco ban

Bev Maclean, a public activist who attracted more than 607,000 signatures in a petition on to overturn SA’s ban on cigarette sales, has joined tobacco companies in their court battle.

Maclean joined British American Tobacco, Japan Tobacco International and a host of civil society organisations.

Maclean believes a government should never be permitted to limit the rights of citizens without providing conclusive evidence.    

“What evidence is there that a person who has been smoking for years will be spared if they stop a week or two before they contract the virus? How can they assume that smokers are more at risk of being infected without conclusive, reliable evidence? On the other hand, the unintended consequences of the ban are many."

May 29 2020 - 16:35

SA's new 'R number' shows the lockdown worked, say scientists

The latest Covid-19 “R number” is hovering around 1.5, the National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD) said on Friday.

This means every infected person is passing on the virus to around 1.5 people, so the number of new cases is increasing.

The NICD analysis, which comes with several caveats, says the five weeks of level 5 lockdown which began on March 26 “substantially reduced the national R, likely contributing to substantially slowing the progression of the epidemic”.

But the fact that R remained above 1 meant transmission of Covid-19 was continuing, and “further easing of lockdown restrictions may be associated with increases in R in different provinces as contacts between people increase”.

May 29 2020 - 16:28

May 29 2020 - 16:15

Thulas Nxesi lays down law for employers

Employment and labour minister Thulas Nxesi said on Friday that if employees didn’t feel like their bosses were taking the necessary Covid-19 safety measures, they did not have to go to work.

He said consultation was held with social partners at the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac), and draft amendments to the directive issued ahead of level 3 had been tabled.

“The draft direction clarifies that employees have the right to refuse to work if they have a reasonable belief that the necessary precautions have not been put in place to prevent the transmission of Covid-19."

Nxesi said employers will also be required to appoint a Covid-19 compliance officer, undertake a risk assessment of the workplace and develop a plan for the return to work.

May 29 2020 - 15:59

SA exporting 'millions' of facemasks, hand sanitiser: Patel

SA has exported 150-million litres of hand sanitiser to other African countries, and “millions” of face masks.

This is according to trade and industry minister Ebrahim Patel.

Speaking on Friday at an economic cluster briefing regarding level 3 restrictions, Patel said the manufacturing, sale and export or personal protective equipment (PPE), hand sanitisers and other Covid-19 fighting equipment was a “significant opportunity” for SA businesses.

May 29 2020 - 15:56

Four confirmed Covid-19 cases in Gauteng schools - doctors, nurses to be deployed until next year

The Gauteng department of education is set to deploy doctors, nurses and health promoters to schools across the province ahead of the return of grade 7 and 12 pupils on June 1.

The deployment of over 5,000 health workers is set to continue until March next year, according to MEC for Education, Panyaza Lesufi.

Lesufi said the department’s efforts to reopen schools had already been marred by challenges, including four confirmed cases of Covid-19.

May 29 2020 - 15:44

Domestic workers must be given masks: Nxesi

Gardeners and domestic workers returning under level 3 need to be given protective equipment.

This is according to employment and labour minister Thulas Nxesi, speaking on Friday.

He said that the rule that all employees needed to be provided with protective equipment included domestic workers.

May 29 2020 - 15:33

'Schools are not ready to open Monday' - unions, governing bodies

Five teacher unions and three school governing body associations say schools are not ready to reopen on Monday.

In joint statement issued on Friday afternoon, the organisations said basic education minister Angie Motshekga needed to turn back on her statement that schools should start for matrics and grade 7s on Monday.

“Taking all these conditions into consideration, unions and national school governing body associations agree that it would be a grievous mistake to force the reopening of schools on 1 June 2020."

May 29 2020 - 15:19

Winning during Covid-19: PPEs boost air cargo traffic

Johannesburg's OR Tambo International Airport (Ortia) facilitated 1,400 landing and departing cargo flights from a day before lockdown in March up to May 22, an increase of 62% over the comparable period in 2019.

SA's hard lockdown started on March 27, with the country since having eased to level 4 and level 3 set to kick in from June 1.

Handling of air cargo has presented its own set of challenges. Ortia management said in April, the only completed month for which figures are available, the airport received 476 cargo flights compared with 294 cargo flights in April 2019.

Personal protective equipment (PPE), medical devices and pharmaceuticals account for most of the increase in cargo volumes.

May 29 2020 - 15:15

Price-hikes largely 'under control', says Competition Commission

Competition Commission commissioner Thembinkosi Bonakele said on Friday that pricing was "under control".

He said about 1,500 complaints had been processed by the commission, and fines of around R13m leveled. Some of those fines have been redirected as donations to the Solidarity Fund, said Bonakele.

"Without declaring victory on prices, but I think the work done early on - by government and regulatory authorities, making calls and warning suppliers about the laws and making the right regulations - have yielded some positive results. Although we have a few who are engaged in opportunistic behaviour, by and large, prices are under control.

"This doesn’t mean we must not be careful. We must monitor this very closely," he said.

May 29 2020 - 14:55

SA fast-tracking locally made ventilators: Patel

South Africa last produced ventilators two decades ago but due to a critical global shortage due to the coronavirus pandemic, local production is now underway. A prototype of a locally designed ventilator is currently being manufactured.

This is according to trade and industry minister Ebrahim Patel, speaking on Friday.

"We’re now working to get three prototypes finalised and, after this, production will start in June and the first units off the production line during mid-June. In July we’re scaling up significantly, and in Augugust we're hoping to reach the target of, initially, 20,000 ventilators. This is critical additional stock," said Patel.

This was also in conjunction with trying to find ventilators from the rest of the world.

"It’s trying both tracks," said Patel.

May 29 2020 - 14:40

Three million people benefited from UIF payments since lockdown: Nxesi

The Unemployment Insurance Fund has committed over R17bn since the start of the lockdown, of which more than R15bn has been paid out to some three million workers via through 200,000 employers and bargaining councils.

“These disbursements have been in lieu of salaries that could not be paid or as a top up where salaries have been reduced. Each of those three million recipients have families and dependents – greatly increasing the reach of the Covid-19 benefit scheme,” said employment and labour minister Thulas Nxesi on Friday.

May 29 2020 - 14:35

If workplaces aren't safe, you don't have to go to work: Nxesi

Employment and labour minister Thulas Nxesi said on Friday that if workers didn’t feel like their companies were taking the necessary Covid-19 safety measures, they did not have to go to work. He said consultation was reached with social partners at National Economic Development and Labour Council and draft amendments to the directive issued ahead of level 4 have been tabled.

These draft amendments would be finalised and published either on Friday or at the weekend, ahead of level 3 starting on June 1.

“The draft direction clarifies that employees have a right to refuse to work if they have a reasonable belief that the necessary precautions have not been put in place to prevent the transmission of Covid-19. Where such disputes arise, employers should seek to resolve these as quickly as possible. If the dispute leads to a dismissal or other unfair labour practice, these cases may be referred to the CCMA,” Nxesi said.

Mineral resources minister Gwede Mantashe at an economic cluster briefing on level 3 restrictions on Friday.
Image: GCIS Mineral resources minister Gwede Mantashe at an economic cluster briefing on level 3 restrictions on Friday.

May 29 2020 - 14:30

Mines that don't keep workers safe face closure: Mantashse

Mineral resources minister Gwede Mantashe said that, as of Thursday, mining industry had tested 4,600 people at mines across SA. Of these, 384 tested Covid-19 positive.

"The more we test, the more we become aware of the extent of the problem and the location thereof. The new complication is people who show no signs, but test positive. This tells us we need to intensify our screening and testing programme," he said.

Mantashe said that where there was non-compliance at mines, and a failure to keep workers safe, the department would "not hesitate" to take action, including "closing an operation".

May 29 2020 - 14:15

More than 1,700 quarantine facilities identified across SA: De Lille

Public works minister Patricia de Lille said on Friday that SA has enough quarantine facilities available as the Covid-19 infection rate was "expected to increase with millions of people returning to work on Monday".

She said that the department had been "working on all fronts to ensure we are ready for all eventualities, and the worst case scenarios, by having enough quarantine facilities available".

"We have so far identified 1,751 facilities, representing 129,600 beds, across SA. Of the 1,751 facilities, 642 are state-owned and 1,109 are privately-owned. Nationally, 395 facilities have been assessed by the department of health, representing 35,700 beds.

"We can assure South Africans that ... we have enough quarantine facilities available as the need arise," said De Lille.

May 29 2020 - 13:27

West Rand is new Covid-19 hotspot as Ekurhuleni infections slow

Gauteng has established multidisciplinary ward-based teams to deal with Covid-19 in the province.

The new strategy is set to go beyond testing, tracing, isolation and quarantining, said premier David Makhura.

“It will not be easy to cope by using the strategy we had earlier," he said while addressing the Covid-19 command council on Friday.

May 29 2020 - 13:18

'Send children back to school, severe cases of Covid-19 are unlikely' - expert

Two months from now, there will be many more Covid-19 cases than now. Schools will close again by the end of August or September when there is a surge in infections, an expert has said.

“We either open the schools now or we accept that there is not going to be any schooling this year and we can reassess early next year. This is the first time where children are being protected, but we are actually harming children by keeping them back.

“We are punishing them, despite them not being at risk of developing severe illness,” Prof Shabir Madhi, an infectious diseases expert, said.

May 29 2020 - 13:04

Herman Mashaba challenges rationality of liquor sale schedules

The People's Dialogue leader Herman Mashaba has weighed in on the new alcohol sale regulations, questioning the rationality of the time schedules.

On Thursday, co-operative governance and traditional affairs minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma highlighted some of the regulations for level 3 of lockdown which come into effect from June 1.

May 29 2020 - 12:43

Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma to churches: pray but don't touch

With places of worship opening up next month, the government has announced that all rituals that require touching are forbidden.

This was announced by co-operative governance & traditional affairs (Cogta) minister Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma on Friday.

In a statement, Dlamini-Zuma said according to the new regulations, congregants were also required to keep a distance of 1.5m between them for the duration of worship.

May 29 2020 - 12:30

Is fear of Covid-19 a reason not to go to work? Answers here

Employees returning to their places of work during the lockdown will need to show reasonable justification if they stop working because they are exposed to the virus.

Legal provisions allowing employees to withdraw from hazardous working situations could, in the context of pandemic, be abused by unprincipled employees and trade unions.

May 29 2020 - 12:16

Would-be drivers & driving school staff champ at bit for centres to reopen

As the country prepares to move to level 3 of the phased lockdown, aspirant drivers expressed mixed reactions at being able to take driving tests during the global pandemic.

The green light was given by minister of transport Fikile Mbalula on May 22 during his visit to the Centurion Driving Licensing Testing Centre (DTLC) where he announced that DLTCs, registering authorities and vehicle testing stations will resume their services from June 1 2020 subject to hygiene, disinfection control and social distancing measures.

May 29 2020 - 12:07

‘Avoid loitering and an early grave’: Nelson Mandela Bay's Covid-19 awareness programme

"Avoid loitering in the streets or you’ll end up in a grave."

That was the gist of one of a number of hard-hitting messages on flyers that were handed out by municipal officials, metro police and police officers at a roadblock in Maku Street, Motherwell, on Thursday.

The flyers are being distributed as part of the Nelson Mandela Bay municipality’s Covid-19 awareness programme aimed at curbing the transmission of the virus in the metro’s identified hotspots.


May 29 2020 - 11:56

'It's very difficult to believe anything we hear from government now' - British American Tobacco SA

British American Tobacco is resuming its legal challenge against the ban on the sale of tobacco products after it says the government betrayed its trust.

This week, after it became clear the sales ban would remain in place, Johnny Moloto, head of external affairs for British American Tobacco South Africa, said the company's trust in government has been abused and taken advantage of.

The company said on Friday in a statement that it was “commencing urgent legal proceedings to challenge the government‘s decision to extend the ban on tobacco sales during level 3".

May 29 2020 - 11:43

Collins Khosa's family lawyer to lodge review of army report

Lawyers representing the family of Collins Khosa, who was allegedly killed by soldiers, will lodge a review of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) report that cleared troops of any wrongdoing.

The SANDF board of inquiry found that the confrontation between Khosa, 40, his brother-in-law Thabiso Muvhango and soldiers in Alexandra on April 10 had not led to his death when considering the postmortem report, and therefore the officers involved and the state were not liable for his death.

May 29 2020 - 11:35

Eastern Cape scrambles to deliver PPEs as two schools say they won't open on Monday

Two schools in the Eastern Cape have issued letters to parents advising them not to send their children to classes because the schools have not received personal protective equipment (PPE).

Basic education minister Angie Motshekga last week announced that pupils in grades 7 and 12 will return to school on June 1.

She said before schools open, all facilities would be sanitised and thoroughly disinfected and PPE, including masks, would be delivered.

However, it seems not all schools have been provided with these products.

May 29 2020 - 11:10

Technical production and live events sector ‘will simply collapse’: industry association

The executive director of the Southern African Communications Industries Association (Sacia), Kevan Jones, says the technical production sector has come to a complete standstill with the lockdown and prohibition on gatherings.

“Its still unclear when well be able to return to work but the governments phased approach to resuming economic activity makes it likely that well be out of work for an extended period,” he says.

Since the industry relies on social gatherings to operate, the lack of income makes it difficult for technical production companies to honour their financial responsibilities.

May 29 2020 - 10:59

Mzansi reacts to new alcohol sale regulations

The new alcohol sale regulations under level 3 lockdown have been met with mixed reactions on social media.

The sale and purchase of alcohol will be permitted from June 1, under strict regulations, co-operative governance and traditional affairs minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma said on Thursday.

She said the sale of liquor in licensed premises will now be permitted between Monday and Thursday from 9am until 5pm.

May 29 2020 - 10:47

Gauteng church will not open: 'The health of our congregants is of utmost importance'

Hope Restoration Ministries will remain closed under lockdown level 3, even though the newly gazetted regulations allow places of worship to hold religious gatherings. 

In a statement released on Thursday, lead pastor Reverend SC Mathebula said while the church appreciates that government acknowledges its role in society, it remains concerned about the safety of its congregants.

Four of its campuses are in areas which have been identified as hotspots in Ekurhuleni and in the West Rand.

May 29 2020 - 10:37

New laws for religious gatherings: screening, face masks, sanitisers and time limits

Co-operative governance & traditional affairs minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma has outlined the “norms and standards” for religious gatherings under level 3 of lockdown.

The regulations follow President Cyril Ramaphosa’s announcement that religious sectors would be able to operate when the country as a whole moved to level 3.

The new set of regulations was published in the Government Gazette on Thursday.

May 29 2020 - 10:20

BATSA to go to court to force removal ban on sale of tobacco products

British American Tobacco SA (BATSA) said on Friday it will start urgent legal proceedings to challenge government's decision to extend the ban on tobacco sales during level three of the lockdown.

It wants the prohibition on sales of tobacco products lifted "as a matter of urgency.”

The company said the government’s continued ban on legal tobacco sales is threatening the survival of the legal tobacco sector and the livelihoods it directly supports.

May 29 2020 - 09:27

John Steenhuisen questions 'bizarre' level 3 regulations - 'you can gather, but no haircut, or cigarettes?'

DA leader John Steenhuisen says the new lockdown regulations, which allow people to gather in religious settings while going to salons, beaches and smoking cigarettes continue to be prohibited, are “bizarre”.

The national coronavirus command council (NCCC) on Thursday announced new regulations which would apply to the eased lockdown on June 1.

May 29 2020 - 09:17

‘Social visits are absolutely not allowed under level 3’: Cele

No, you cannot visit your family under level 3 of the lockdown.

Police minister Bheki Cele was emphatic on Thursday - social visits are not allowed come June 1.

Speaking at a justice, crime prevention and security cluster briefing, he said that the regulations - which were gazetted later in the day - dictated which activities were allowed. And social visits were not among those.

May 29 2020 - 08:43

'We're running against time': Drug firms say Covid-19 vaccine may be ready by year end

Pharmaceutical company executives said Thursday that one or several Covid-19 vaccines could begin rolling out before 2021, but warned the challenges would be "daunting" as it was estimated that 15 billion doses would be needed to halt the pandemic.

Well over 100 labs around the world are scrambling to come up with a vaccine against the novel coronavirus, including 10 that have made it to the clinical trial stage.

"The hope of many people is that we will have a vaccine, hopefully several, by the end of this year," Pascal Soriot, head of AstraZeneca, told a virtual briefing.


May 29 2020 - 08:32

Smokers get their fix from gutter stompies as black market bites

Co-operative governance and traditional affairs minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma believes the tobacco ban can help people stop smoking, but judging by smoking behaviour in East London, that is a pipe dream.

With cartons of black market cigarettes — even “cheapie” local brands — now selling for R1,100 and more, desperate smokers are looking for their fix wherever they can find it, reports DispatchLIVE. And a lot of the time that is in the street or gutter.

May 29 2020 - 07:39

Covid-19: Some judges refuse to use their own computers during lockdown

Justice in lockdown is being hampered because some judges, who earn almost R2m a year, refuse to use their personal computers for “virtual hearings”.

This has emerged in a letter written by the chair of the General Council of the Bar, advocate Craig Watt-Pringle, to Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng and judge presidents in which he cites several issues in getting access to high courts.

While some courts are doing well under these difficult circumstances, he says, others are not, and there are huge disparities in how divisions are functioning.

May 29 2020 - 07:19

Covid-19: What if you get sick? Advice on how to plan for it

As the coronavirus pandemic spreads, planning for the possibility of getting sick is worth taking seriously.

Professor Shabir Moosa, a family physician with the Johannesburg Health District and University of the Witwatersrand, says that while about 80% of people will get mild symptoms, it is important to plan in case there is a need for hospitalisation, and especially if one is living alone.

May 29 2020 - 06:57

From back to school to reopening churches — five critical takeouts from Julius Malema's Covid-19 address

EFF leader Julius Malema on Thursday delivered a virtual address from the party's headquarters in Johannesburg on the government's response to Covid-19 and the national lockdown.

Here are five takeouts from his address:

May 29 2020 - 06:54

Jackson Mthembu hints that tobacco ban could be lifted under Level 2 lockdown

Smokers might have to wait a little longer before the ban on the sale of tobacco products, including cigarettes, is lifted.

This after minister in the presidency Jackson Mthembu hinted that the ban on tobacco will likely be lifted at Level 2 of the lockdown.

Mthembu told EWN on Thursday that he did not see the ban continuing past Level 3.

May 29 2020 - 00:32

SA's Covid-19 cases and deaths rise as department admits to testing backlogs

For the second day in a row, the number of new Covid-19 cases increased by significantly more than 1,000 - taking the national tally to 27,403 (up from 25,935 on Wednesday).

There was also another significant jump in the number of Covid-19 related deaths, with 25 fatalities recorded in the last 24 hours. This means that 577 South Africans have now died from the respiratory illness caused by the coronavirus.

Health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize admitted in a statement issued shortly after midnight that SA was suffering from a backlog of tests.