South Africa has reported a record jump in new Covid-19 cases – nearly 80% higher than its previous daily record – as the the country gradually eases its lockdown. The surge came as Brazil overtook Italy to become the third worst affected nation for deaths, behind the US and the UK.
South Africa recorded 3,267 new Covid-19 cases on Thursday, the biggest jump since the pandemic began. The country is the worst hit in sub-Saharan Africa and has nearly a quarter of all cases on the continent, with 40,792 infections. With 848 deaths, it ranks only second to Egypt for fatalities (1,126).
Nearly two thirds of the country’s cases are in the Western Cape province, where Cape Town is the biggest city, and health services are under pressure. The region is also a major tourist destination, and local authorities have implemented one of the most rigorous testing regimes in the country.
South Africa’s strict lockdown began on 27 March, sharply limiting freedom of movement and slowing an economy already in recession. Restrictions were eased to level 3 on Monday which opened up large parts of the economy and abolished curfews. Alcohol went back on sale under strict rules but tobacco sales remain banned.
In a blow to the government’s roadmap out of lockdown, a South African court ruled this week that the regulations “unconstitutional and invalid”, and the government was given two weeks to overhaul them. Local media has reported the government will appeal the ruling.
Africa’s three biggest economies – Nigeria, Egypt and South Africa – have similar “doubling rates” – the number of days in which their infection numbers double – according to Our World In Data.
Brazil’s cases of Covid-19 have surged past 600,000, taking just four days to jump 100,000 cases. On Thursday the government announced 34,021, a daily rise that has only been exceeded during the pandemic by the United States. With 1,437 fatalities recorded, Brazil has also jumped over Italy to become the worst affected nation behind the US and UK.
On Thursday Rio de Janiero’s 100,000 street vendors were allowed to go back to work.
Brazil’s president Jair Bolsonaro has continued to publicly attack efforts to slow the virus’s spread through quarantine measures and social distancing.
“We can’t go on like this. Nobody can take it anymore,” Bolsonaro said of the shutdown efforts being implemented by state governors and mayors across Brazil.
“The collateral impact will be far greater than those people who unfortunately lost their lives because of these last three months here,” he said.
During a Facebook Live session, Bolsonaro also encouraged the federal solicitor general to sue states to force them to reopen their beaches.
Mexico is Latin America’s second worst-hit country and reported another record daily number of infections, at 4,442. There were also 816 more deaths, bringing the totals to 105,680 cases and 12,545 fatalities, which means it is the seventh worst affected country in the world for deaths.
President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador urged people not to over-react, warning of “psychosis” on Thursday, and noting that deaths per capita for its nearly 130 million people was still far lower than many other countries.
In the US, the governor of New York state, which has recorded 30,174 deaths, has urged protesters demonstrating over the death of George Floyd to get tested for coronavirus. Andrew Cuomo said up the 30,000 people protesting statewide could compound the coronavirus situation.
“If you were at a protest, go and get a test please,” he said, adding that anyone who had been at a protest had a “civic duty” to get tested.
“Many of them wear masks, thank God, but there’s no social distancing. You look at the encounters with the police; the police are right in their face, they’re right in the face of the police,” he said.
In other coronavirus developments:
Turkey will impose a two-day weekend lockdown in 15 cities as part of efforts to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus, the interior ministry said early on Friday. In a statement, the ministry said bakeries and certain shops could operate during the lockdown.
China reported five new Covid-19 cases and three new asymptomatic infections the national health commission said on Friday, adding that all of the cases were imported.
New Zealand is tiptoeing towards eliminating the virus, with 14 consecutive days of no new cases.
The Lancet paper that halted global trials of hydroxychloroquine for Covid-19 because of fears of increased deaths has been retracted after a Guardian investigation found inconsistencies in the data.
Japan’s household spending slumped in April, falling 11.1% from a year earlier, government data showed on Friday, as the world’s third-largest economy struggled with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
Australian authorities are taking legal action to try stop a Black Lives Matter protest scheduled to take place in Sydney on Saturday, citing the risk of an outbreak of Covid-19 given the large numbers expected to attend.
Argentina extended a mandatory lockdown in the capital, Buenos Aires, and some other parts of the country from 7 June to 28 June, as confirmed coronavirus cases 20,000.