Coronavirus cases rise in South Africa. Above health minister Zweli Mkhize

South Africa on Tuesday said its coronavirus cases rose from 402  to 554 overnight.

“Two patients are in intensive care, but there have been no deaths from coronavirus in the country,’’ Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said.

On Monday, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced a 21-day lockdown of Africa’s most advanced economy.

He said the measure was necessary to escalate its response to curb the spread of the outbreak.

South Africa has the highest number of confirmed coronavirus cases in sub-Saharan Africa.

Its public health experts are worried that the virus could overwhelm the health system if infection rates rise steeply.

Mkhize said in a televised news conference, that health officials are working to expand the country’s coronavirus testing capacity.

“They will also develop a plan to ensure there are enough intensive care beds with respirators.

“The numbers, we mustn’t be shocked when we see them increase. But these measures if we all work together must turn the curve around,” Mkhize said.

Mkhize said South Africa could reach an inflection point in its infection curve two or three weeks after its lockdown restrictions enter into force.