South African Health Minister Zweli Mkhize uses his elbow to greet a health offical as coronavirus continues to spread in the country.

SOUTH Africa on Friday saw a record number of daily confirmed COVID-19 cases amid mounting calls for higher levels of lockdown.

The country recorded 9,063 new cases in the past 24 hours, bringing the tally to 177,124, according to the latest figures released by Health Minister Zweli Mkhize.

The death toll has reached 2,952, of which 108 have been reported since Thursday.

The country has witnessed sharp rises in both confirmed cases and related deaths since the relaxation of lockdown restrictions on May 1.

This prompted calls for pushing the lockdown to higher levels in areas hit hard by the pandemic.

On Friday, Gauteng Premier David Makhura said the province was considering enforcing a harder lockdown as the pandemic seemed to spiral out of control.

Should the province go ahead with the harder lockdown, the regulations will apply to the entire province, not just COVID-19 hotspots, the premier said.

Gauteng has seen a significant spike in new infections — about 4,000 a day recently. As of Friday, the province recorded a total number of 54,331 infections, second only to the country’s epicenter, the Western Cape which had a total number of 66,936 cases.

Deaths related with the virus in Gauteng has reached 282, the third highest among all nine provinces in the country.

There have been concerns that if cases continued to rise as rapidly as recently, Gauteng would overtake the Western Cape soon to become the country’s epicenter.

Makhura said that as the pressure was mounting, he wanted to “change the gear” by introducing tougher restrictions to give a breather to the health care system in order to save lives.

Harder lockdown should be imposed in some of the areas where the pandemic is just getting out of hand, he said.

“People are not observing any of the measures that have been put in place,” the premier complained.

“We’re doing consultations about exploring some of the reintroduction of the harsher measures. Some of them may include issues pertaining to alcohol,” Makhura said.

Some hospitals are complaining that their bed capacity has been stretched by people suffering from trauma cases related with alcohol abuse.

The country lifted a ban on the sale of alcohol on June 1 while further easing lockdown restrictions.

Makhura also disclosed that the pandemic also took a toll on schools.

Close to 600 schools in Gauteng have been affected by COVID-19, with at least 184 learners and 428 teachers having tested positive, he said.

(Source: Xinhua Agency)

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