A two-day-old baby has died with coronavirus in South Africa – one of the world’s youngest victims of the virus.

The mother had tested positive for Covid-19 and the child subsequently tested positive, the health minister said.

The baby was born prematurely and needed help with breathing, he added.

The country’s death toll now stands at 339, and the number of confirmed cases has climbed to 18,003.

The latest modelling predicts that up to 40,000 people might die in South Africa over the next few months.

“Sadly we have recorded the first neonatal mortality related to Covid-19. The baby was two days old and was born prematurely,” South Africa’s Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize said.

“The baby had lung difficulties which required ventilation support immediately after birth.

“We extend a special word of comfort to the mother of this child and salute the neonatologists, nurses and all allied and technical personnel who had the difficult task of caring for the neonate to the end,” he added.

Asked by the BBC whether this was the youngest victim of coronavirus in Africa, the director of the Africa Centre for Disease Control (CDC) Dr John Nkengasong said: “To the best of our knowledge that is the first case that the Africa CDC is aware of.”

Other young victims of coronavirus, include a three-day-old who died on 5 May in the UK. In that case the mother and baby tested positive for coronavirus after she gave birth.

The baby was born with a low heart rate and the coroner listed the primary cause of death as severe hypoxic ischaemic encephalopathy, meaning the brain was starved of blood and oxygen, while maternal Covid-19 was listed as a secondary cause.

Mr Mkhize also said that the two-year-old baby was one of 27 new deaths recorded in South Africa in the last 24 hours.

The country has the highest number of cases of Covid-19 in Africa. However, Egypt and Algeria have had more fatalities, with 680 and 568 respectively.

South Africa has had some of the strictest lockdown measures in the world, including a ban on cigarettes and alcohol, but is now easing some restrictions.