South Africa has breached the one million mark for COVID-19 cases, with 9,502 new infections announced on Sunday night.
Health Minister Zweli Mkhize confirmed that the total number of people who have been infected with the virus now stands at 1,004,413.
At the same time, a further 214 deaths were recorded, bringing the total number of fatalities to 26,735.
South Africa, which had the fifth highest number of positive cases in the world in March, is now ranked 14th, largely due to strict lockdown measures that effectively shut the country down.
Mr Mkhize said the new figures indicate that South Africa is experiencing a second wave of the pandemic and government would need to consider further restrictions.
The minister last week slammed Matt Hancock, the UK Secretary for Health, who claimed that South Africa’s new COVID-19 variant is “more transmissible”.
“Thanks to the impressive genomic capability of the South Africans, we’ve detected two cases of another new variant of coronavirus here in the UK,” Hancock said. “Both are contacts of cases who have travelled from South Africa over the past few weeks.”
However,Mr Mkhize said there is evidence that the UK variant developed earlier than the South African variant.
“To give some historical context, on 14 December, the UK reported to the WHO that a variant had been identified and traced back to 20 September 2020 in Kent, South East England, approximately a month before the South African variant appears to have developed,” Mkhize said.
He added that this variant has a mutation occurring at a site common with the South African variant, “although they are two completely independent lineages”.
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