South Africa on Sunday breached one million cumulative cases of Covid-19, with a cumulative total of 1 004 413 cases reported, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said.
The grim milestone comes just nine days after the country, the worst hit in the continent, reported 900 000 cases. The country had taken two weeks to reach 900,000 from the 800,000 seen early in December.
Mkhize confirmed 9502 new cases on Sunday.
Mkhize also reported 214 more Covid-19 related deaths: with 123 in the Eastern Cape, 17 in Gauteng, 13 in KwaZulu-Natal, 5 in the Northern Cape and 56 in the Western Cape. This brings the total to 26 735 deaths
A cumulative 6 445 318 tests have been conducted with 29 494 tests completed since the last report, Mkhize said.
Our recoveries currently stand at 844 874. This represents a recovery rate of 84,1%.
KwaZulu-Natal currently has the most active cases with 46 710 confirmed cases while the Eastern Cape has recorded the highest total number of Covid-19 related deaths with the death toll at 6 925.
Several hospitals and medical centres have reported wards overflowing with patients with many healthcare workers cancelling their vacations to tackle a huge influx of patients.
The National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC) met on Sunday in the wake of a spike in Covid-19 infections countrywide.
GCIS director-general Phumla Williams on Sunday confirmed that the NCCC had met and is yet to wrap up its meetings.
Williams as well as Presidency spokesperson Tyrone Seale could not confirm the date on which President Cyril Ramaphosa will once again hold a family meeting following his announcement of amended lockdown regulations on December 14 amid the country entering a second wave.
“Once the NCCC concludes its meetings it consults with provinces before a report is sent to the president who in turn will engage the country on pertinent matters,” Williams said.
A new variant of the novel coronavirus is believed to be driving the surge in coronavirus infections on the country.
The new variant, referred to as 501.V2, was discovered by a network of scientists around South Africa who have been tracking the genetics of the SARS-COV-2 virus.
First identified in Nelson Mandela Bay, it spread rapidly to other districts in the Eastern Cape, and to the Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal.
Scientists say the variant is different from others circulating in South Africa because it has multiple mutations in the important “spike” protein that the virus uses to infect human cells.
It has also been associated with a higher viral load, meaning a higher concentration of virus particles in patients’ bodies, possibly contributing to higher levels of transmission.
Between 80% and 90% of new cases in the country are carrying the mutant variant, according to health authorities.
South African scientists say there is no clear evidence at this stage that this variant is associated with more severe disease or worse outcomes. However, it does appear to spread faster than previous iterations.