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.