South Africa reports record daily number of Covid-19 cases

Johannesburg, Dec 25 (efe-epa).- South Africa reported a record 14,305 new cases of Covid-19 in 24 hours amid a second wave of the virus, driven by a potent new variant.

According to the latest figures, which run up until Thursday, South Africa, the epicenter of the virus in Africa, has logged a total of 968,500 cases of Covid-19 and almost 26,000 deaths since the pandemic began.

Authorities have carried out 6.3 million tests in a country of 58 million people.

Health officials have also identified a new variant of the coronavirus in South Africa, dubbed 501.V2. It has spread through several provinces of the country and is thought to have emerged in the Eastern Cape.

Health minister Zweli Mkhize late Friday said there was no evidence that the variant was more dangerous or contagious than the variant detected in the United Kingdom, as was suggested by the British health secretary Matt Hancock this week.

Early tests on the variant detected in southern, southeastern and eastern areas of England suggest it could be 70% more contagious than earlier strains of the coronavirus, something that led a raft of European Union countries to halt air traffic from Britain.

Hancock on Wednesday announced travel restrictions on flights coming from South Africa and ordered passengers who had recently arrived in the UK from the African nation to self-isolate.

In a statement, Mkhize said: “There is also no evidence that the 501.V2 causes more severe disease or increased mortality than the UK variant or any variant that has been sequenced around the world.

“It is the widely shared view of the scientific community that, given the current circumstantial evidence, the risks of travel bans may outweigh the benefits, and that it is possible to contain the variants while sustaining international travel.”

South African president Cyril Rhamaphosa announced new restrictions in the country on 14 December.

“If we do not do things differently this festive season, we will meet the new year not with joy, but with sorrow. Unless we do things differently, this will be the last Christmas for many South Africans,” he said.

Four South African provinces lead the country in terms of infection rates — Western Cape, home of Cape Town; Eastern Cape; Kwazulu Natal and Gauteng, home to the country’s largest city Johannesburg and the capital, Pretoria, the executive capital city.

South Africa had managed to keep its infection rates low since August, following several tough months during which it was not only the African epicenter of Covid-19 but the fifth-worst affected nation in the world. EFE-EPA


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