As South Africa steadily edges to its COVID-19 peak, President Cyril Ramaphosa has urged citizens not to be complacent and adhere to the regulations put in place. South Africa recorded its biggest one-day jump in new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday after another 8,124 people tested positive.

“We have all seen images and this is the worrying part, of people having parties and social gatherings, attending funerals where sometimes the limited number is not adhered to and without masks.

“Tonight I want to implore all of us to embrace the regulations with the same vigour that we did in the early days. I’d like to ask that everyone should be very conscious of the actions that we take because they impact the safety of those around you,” he said last night.

With the country’s COVID-19 cases  reaching 159 333 recorded on Wednesday, President Ramaphosa made the call during the first virtual Presidential Imbizo on Coronavirus.

The Imbizo, a public-participation platform where communities are able to interact directly with government on challenges in society, took place on Wednesday evening.

Citizens called in using the toll-free hotline: 0800 142 446 – and under the #PresidentialImbizo took to social media to engage the President on Coronavirus, gender-based violence, the cigarette ban and life beyond lockdown.

“Coronavirus has brought with it the presence of devastating poverty, unemployment and indeed it has done so for many other countries, not that it was not known but the Coronavirus has brought it to the fore,” said the President.

The steady rise of COVID-19 infections has left many South Africans reasonably anxious as was evident in some of the questions posed to the President, which engaged the President on the symptoms of COVID-19.

The President highlighted some key symptoms of COVID-19 such as chest pains, headaches, joint pain but equally stressed that some patients are asymptomatic.

On a question as to when smokers can expect the lifting of the cigarette ban, the President emphasised that this will take place as the country gradually moves through the various levels.

“We will not be under lockdown forever – even the ban on cigarettes will be lifted. It is still in place now in terms of our regulations and I think we should accept it as such and with time as we go to another level, the ban on cigarettes will be lifted,” he said.

Of the additional cases, Gauteng and the Western Cape, which are the hardest hit provinces, contributed to the country’s highest increase in the last 24 hours.

Gauteng’s infection rate grew by 3 063, followed by the Western Cape with 1 896, Eastern Cape 1 654, KwaZulu-Natal 958, North West 206, Free State 158 and Limpopo 44.

Meanwhile, 92 people died of COVID-19 related illnesses; 37 are from the Western Cape, 28 from Gauteng, 17 from the Eastern Cape and 10 from KwaZulu-Natal.

“This brings the total deaths to 2 749,” the Health Minister, Dr Zweli Mkhize said on Thursday, adding that the mortality rate is now sitting at 1.7%.

Also, 76 025 people have recovered from the disease, while 1 666 939 tests have been conducted to date.

As of Wednesday, the Western Cape had 64 377 cases, Gauteng 45 944, Eastern Cape 29 340, KwaZulu-Natal 10 632, North West 4 393, Free State 1 672, Mpumalanga 1 306, Limpopo 1 175 and Northern Cape 494.

According to the World Health Organisation, there are 10 357 662 cases globally and 508 055 deaths. –