The coronavirus pandemic in Africa is reaching full speed and it's good to prepare for the worst-case scenario, the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention chief said Thursday, after a South African official said a single province is preparing 1.5 million graves.

Just a day after confirmed virus cases across Africa surpassed the half-million milestone the total was over 522,000 and climbing, with more than 12,000 deaths. With testing levels low, the real numbers are unknown.

South Africa has the most confirmed cases with over 224,000, and for the first time Gauteng province home to Johannesburg and the capital, Pretoria has the country's most cases with over 75,000, or 33 per cent.

Provincial official Bandile Masuku, a medical doctor, startled South Africans when he told reporters Wednesday that Gauteng is preparing over 1.5 million graves.

“It's a reality that we need to deal with, he said, and it's the public's responsibility to make sure that we don't get there,'' he said.

The province in a statement Thursday sought to calm fears, saying it does not have over a million already open dug graves and the number refers to the potential capacity. It also said six members of Gauteng's COVID-19 War Room have tested positive for the virus.

Asked about the comments, Africa CDC chief John Nkengasong said there's absolutely no harm to think ahead and prepare for the worst-case scenario.