South Africa's coronavirus cases nearly double in ‘explosive’ rate, local transmissions diagnosed

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South Africa reported Wednesday the number of coronavirus cases in the country nearly doubled in a span of just two days as the pandemic begins to grip the African continent.

The sub-Saharan country, which has the most cases in the region, said there are now 116 new COVID-19 cases, including 14 from a local transmission and six in children under 10.

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South Africa's health minister, Zweli Mkhize, earlier this week called that kind of increase “explosive.” Health experts have warned that facilities in Africa’s richest nations could be overwhelmed as the virus spreads.

Passengers sit inside a minibus taxi on their way home to Kwa-Thema, a town east of Johannesburg, South Africa, on Tuesday. (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe)

Passengers sit inside a minibus taxi on their way home to Kwa-Thema, a town east of Johannesburg, South Africa, on Tuesday. (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe)

Crowded conditions in poor areas could accelerate the outbreak, experts have said.

“We have low-income workers who cannot afford to self-isolate or take time off work,” said public health expert Dr. Atiya Mosam, who also worried about the large population without clean water or sanitation.

President Cyril Ramaphosa on Sunday declared a state of disaster, closing all schools for 30 days and restricting travel to the hardest-hit nations, including the U.S., China, Spain, Italy and Iran. The country will also close 35 of its 53 land borders and will intensify screening at its international airports.

Sub-Saharan Africa saw its second death from COVID-19 in Burkina Faso, a country that has one of the continent’s highest number of cases.

Thirty-three of Africa’s 54 countries now have cases, with a total of at least 529 Wednesday afternoon.

Health experts from some 20 African nations participated in a video conference with doctors in China on how to contain the virus.

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“This is an extremely important step in terms of knowledge share,” said Kenya’s cabinet health secretary, Mutahi Kagwe.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.