The past seven weeks of lockdown has saved 1 752 lives - 35 people per day.
This was the calculation presented to the nation on Wednesday by President Cyril Ramaphosa in his first public address since 23 April.
He began with the plea that "despite its duration and severity, the lockdown we imposed was absolutely necessary".
"Without the lockdown, the number of coronavirus infections would have soared uncontrollably. Our health facilities would have been overwhelmed and many thousands of South Africans would have died."
However, moments later, Ramaphosa appeared to give a different figure.
He said: "There have been several projections about the possible path the disease would have taken without our swift and decisive action.
"As more data has become available, these projections have been updated and refined. The best current estimate is that without the lockdown and other measures we have taken at least, they say, 80 000 South Africans could have been infected by now. And the death toll could have been at least eight times higher than what it is at the moment."
The current death toll was 219 which, multiplied by eight, totalled 1 752 lives saved, according to the president's data.
Ramaphosa added: "This coronavirus is taking a heavy toll not only on the health of our people but also our people's ability to earn a living, to feed themselves and their families to learn and develop - and enjoy many of the basic freedoms that we take for granted."