First COVID-19 Deaths in South Africa; Both Young

Please note this story was updated in the media to reflect the fact that the 28 year old woman who died did not pass away as a result of COVID-19, but rather had another respiratory-related condition.

Two women from the Western Cape – a 28-year-old who was admitted to hospital on Thursday and a 48-year-old who has been in ICU, are the first two confirmed deaths of the Covid-19 virus in South Africa.

This was confirmed by Western Cape Premier Alan Winde on Friday morning, following a brief statement earlier in the morning by Health Minister Zweli Mkhize, who also noted that the number of verified Covid-19 cases in the country “have tipped the 1 000-mark.”

Speaking to Moneyweb, Winde says it is very sad news for the province and South Africa. He adds that it highlights why citizens need to take the situation and the lockdown more seriously.

“The fact that these two women were relatively young – one being in her twenties and the other in her forties – should serve as a serious warning to South Africans that it is not only the elderly that are at risk. We all need to take responsibility and stay home during this lockdown,” he says.

“With these two deaths being confirmed on the first day of the lockdown in the country, it brings home the seriousness of what we are facing…. It highlights the importance of the lockdown, which I fully support.

“I call on all South Africans to take responsibility for yourselves and for every single citizen around during this time.”

In his statement, Mkhize said: “This morning, we wake South Africans up with sad news that we now have our first deaths resulting from Covid-19. These two deaths occurred in the Western Cape. One at a private hospital and the other at a public hospital.”

The minister added that government would share more details later today, however he noted that the number of cases had increased (from 927) on Thursday to more than 1 000 by Friday morning.

Meanwhile, Winde tells Moneyweb that besides the ages and the fact that the first two deaths in South Africa were women from the Western Cape, he could not currently share further details.

“Minister Mkhize will share more details later today, but the Western Cape already had more than 200 of the 927 confirmed cases in the country on Thursday. The numbers are bound to increase, that’s why we need to do all we can to slow down the spread of the virus through the lockdown and people staying home,” he says.

Gauteng remains the epicentre of the virus in South Africa, with 409 of the 927 confirmed Covid-19 cases on Thursday.

The Western Cape has the second highest number of cases at 229, while KwaZulu-Natal has the third highest with 134 cases. These numbers are expected to be updated later on Friday.

The number of confirmed Covid-19 cases globally has topped the half-a-million mark and US-based Johns Hopkins University now estimates that the US has more suspected and confirmed cases of Covid-19 than China and Italy. The US, China and Italy all have more than 80 000 cases, but Italy still has the highest death toll.

Globally the death toll has surpassed the 23 000-mark.

To track the spread of the virus, visit Microsoft’s map here.

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Sources: [1], [2]. Image sources: CDC [1], [2].