Thursday, 31 December 2020 21:18

South Africa has recorded 18,000 positive coronavirus cases in the last 24 hours, setting a record high on the final day of 2020.

This was announced by health minister Zweli Mkhize that for the first time in the history of the pandemic in South Africa, we have reached the 18,000 mark for new daily cases and have reached a cumulative total 1,057,161 cases.

More than 55,000 Covid-19 tests were conducted in the last 24 hours and 2020 was drawing to an end with a total of 28,469 Covid-19-related fatalities. 

Mkhize added that amongst those were 436 public health care workers.

As the country sees a second wave of Covid-19 infections, Mkhize said all provinces had reported an increase in the numbers of health care workers who were infected with the virus. 

Breaking down the numbers, he said that of the more than 1 million Covid-19 cases recorded to date, 43,124 were accounted for by health care workers who bravely fought the battle from the front lines.

Mkhize was speaking at the King Edward Hospital in Durban where a commemoration ceremony was being held for the thousands who lost their battle with Covid-19 since it first broke out in SA in March.

A candle lighting ceremony is to be held in their honour. 

"We are here to remember our mothers, our fathers, our sisters, our brothers, our friends, our colleagues and our loved ones who have been so cruelly taken away from us by Covid-19," said Mkhize.

He was joined by KwaZulu-Natal premier Sihle Zikalala and provincial health MEC Nomagugu Simelane Zulu.

The Health Minister expressed concern that news variant and the vaccine rollout have "dominated the conversation" recently.

The fact is the virus will continue to mutate and there will always be a new variant discovered - that is only a matter of time. The other fact is we do not have a vaccine right now. The virus will not wait until these matters are resolved.

Meanwhile many South Africans will swap firecrackers for candles to mark New Year’s Eve amid COVID-19 restrictions including a nighttime curfew.

Instead of ushering in 2021 at packed events with dance music and fireworks, many South Africans are responding to President Cyril Ramaphosa's call to light a candle to honor those who have died in the pandemic and the health workers who are on the frontline of battling the disease.

Urging all South Africans to battle the virus, Ramaphosa called on the nation to celebrate New Year’s Eve in a different way.

Let us each light a candle in memory of those who have lost their lives, in tribute to those on the frontline who are working tirelessly to protect us from harm, in appreciation of the great sacrifices that have been made this past year, and in the confidence that the year ahead will bring health, peace and hope to our people," an emotional Ramaphosa said in a televised address to the nation that he called a "family chat."

The president said he would light a candle in Cape Town at midnight.

Annual New Year’s Eve celebrations have been canceled, including Johannesburg’s annual raucous dance party that attracts thousands. Instead, the mayor of South Africa's largest city will light a candle on the landmark Nelson Mandela Bridge.

More than 82.66 million people have been reported to be infected by the novel coronavirus globally and 1,805,684​ have died, according to the latest Reuters tally.

Compiled by Lehlohonolo Lehana.