Relatively unscathed by the coronavirus until now, the African continent now has nearly one million confirmed cases, over half of which are in South Africa.

Africa’s most industrialised nation recorded 10,107 new confirmed cases of Covid-19 on Saturday, pushing the death toll past the half million mark, the health ministry said.

More than a third of all infections have been reported in Gauteng– South Africa’s financial hub–which has quickly become the epicenter of the national outbreak.

Local hospitals have been struggling to cope, and health experts say the country could reach the peak of its outbreak in late August or early September.

Gravediggers have been told to prepare dozens of graves to accommodate the spike in Covid deaths.

Corruption slowing response

Health authorities had been expecting a surge in cases after the gradual loosening of a strict lockdown that was imposed on 27 March.

The five-week lockdown helped to keep numbers low, but it choked the economy and cost three million South Africans their jobs.

Allegations of corruption have also slowed down the country’s response.

This week, the top health official in Gauteng province was forced to step down over a scandal related to government contracts for Covid-19 personal protective equipment.

President Cyril Ramaphosa has warned that now, more than ever, South Africa’s persistent problem with widespread graft is endangering people’s lives.