TOPSHOT - A boy wears a face mask as a preventive measure against the spred of the COVID-19 coronavirus as he queues outside…
A boy wears a face mask as a preventive measure against the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus outside Makro in Soweto, Johannesburg, South Africa, on March 24, 2020.

South Africa begins a 21-day lockdown at midnight Thursday aimed at stopping the country's rising number of coronavirus cases, with which as of Wednesday tallied 709 confirmed cases, the highest on the continent.

Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said he believes it may be at least two weeks before the lockdown affects the rise in cases.

South Africans in health care, law enforcement, food sales and distribution, and utilities are exempt from the lockdown.

Officials are urging others to only go out for essential needs.

In an apparent effort to discourage mass hoarding of food, Agriculture Minister Thoko Didiza announced the country has an adequate food supply for the duration of the lockdown.

The vast majority of countries across Africa have confirmed cases of the virus. So far the continent has at least 1,788.

So far, at least 58 people have died in Africa, although South Africa has not recorded any confirmed deaths from the virus.

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