South Africa’s Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize says new research estimates 12 million people – about 20% of the country’s population – could already have been infected with Coronavirus.
This is much higher than the official cumulative number of detected COVID-19 cases which is 650,749.
The research is based on examining seroprevalence – the amount of antibodies present in a patient’s bloodstream.
In a statement released on Monday night, Dr Mkhize said a decline in cases has raised questions of what level of immunity might exist in the country.
He explained initial samples “have shown seroprevalence of between 29 and 40%.”
A national seroprevalence study is now underway.
Vaccinologist and member of the Ministerial Advisory Committee, Professor Shabir Madhi, says the true number of infections may be even higher.
He estimates between 35% and 40% of South Africans in densely populated areas could already have been infected, pushing the possible number of infections as high as 20 million.
During the spike in July, between 10,000 and 15,000 new cases were reported daily.
But in the last 24 hours, just 956 new cases were identified.
The death toll is 15,499, while the recovery rate remains high at 88.9%
President Cyril Ramaphosa is today meeting with his advisory councils to discuss the country’s ongoing response to the pandemic.
There is wide speculation that Mr Ramaphosa will this week announce a further relaxation of lockdown restrictions, with many anticipating the return of international travel.