Cape Town is virus hot spot for South Africa and continent

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In this photo taken Tuesday, May 19, 2020, paramedics in protective gear drive in an ambulance in Khayelitsha in Cape Town South Africa, With dramatically increased community transmission, Cape Town has become the center of the COVID-19 outbreak in South Africa and the entire continent. (AP Photo/Nardus Engelbrecht)

JOHANNESBURG – Cape Town has become the center of the COVID-19 outbreak in South Africa and one of Africa's hot spots.

The popular tourist destination at the southern tip of Africa had more than 12,000 confirmed cases as of Thursday, representing 63% of South Africa's 19,000 cases and about 10% of Africa's 95,000 cases.

Gauteng province containing Johannesburg, South Africa's largest city, and the capital, Pretoria, had been expected to be the country's epicenter with its population density and poverty levels, but Cape Town defied predictions with high levels of community transmission.

“No model upfront predicted what we see in Western Cape (province),” Health Minister Zwelini Mkhize told journalists Thursday. “The explosion of cases in Western Cape is out of the expected range and it may be that we need to have additional interventions to try and contain those numbers.”

Cape Town's mountains and beaches may have contributed to its high number of COVID-19 cases. With direct flights to several European capitals, it is believed that tourists not showing symptoms brought the virus and it began to spread undetected.

Cape Town is expected to reach its peak of cases around the end of June, while the rest of South Africa is expected to peak in August or September.

South Africa may see between 40,000 to 45,000 deaths by November, according to the Modelling and Simulation Hub, Africa, a group of scientists and academics advising the government.

By year's end some 13 million of South Africa's 57 million people could be infected, their study said.