By Lehlohonolo Lehana.
South Africa hit a significant milestone on Wednesday night, as the 10-million mark for the number of Covid-19 tests was passed.
There has been 1,553,609 total cases confirmed across the country, health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize said - and this from 10,020,025 tests conducted to date.
Of these, 24,594 were completed in the past 24 hours, with 756 of them coming back positive. This is a positivity rate of 3.07%.
Mkhize also reported that 79 new Covid-19 related deaths had been reported in the past 24 hours. Of these, 25 were in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal, 18 were in the Free State, six were in Mpumalanga, four were in the Western Cape, and one was in the Eastern Cape. There were no deaths recorded in Limpopo, the North West or the Northern Cape.
This means that 53,111 fatalities have been recorded since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.
To date, 1,479,821 recoveries have been recorded (at a recovery rate of 95%) and the number of healthcare workers vaccinated so far is 278,909.
Globally, there have been 131 487 572 confirmed cases of COVID-19, including 2 857 702 deaths, reported to the World Health Organisation.
Meanwhile Brazil has recorded its first confirmed case of the highly contagious coronavirus variant discovered in South Africa, a fresh danger sign for a country already ravaged by the world’s highest daily death toll fueled by a widespread local variant.
Last week, scientists at the Butantan biomedical institute said the case, identified in a woman in Sao Paulo state, might be a new local variant. Further analysis confirmed it as the first known local case of the variant widely circulating in South Africa and elsewhere.
Scientists fear a showdown between the South African variant and the already rampant Brazilian variant, known as P.1, both of which are more contagious and possibly more deadly than the original version of the coronavirus and have led to accelerated COVID-19 surges.
"It could be a huge duel," said Maria Carolina Sabbaga, one of Butantan’s coordinators for studying new variants. "I think P.1 has already taken over. I’m not sure if the South African will overtake P.1, let’s see."
The South African variant appears to reduce protection from current vaccines in clinical trials and in vitro studies.
Brazil is in the midst of a brutal COVID-19 wave, setting records for deaths on a weekly basis. On Tuesday, the Health Ministry reported a single-day record of 4,195 deaths.
The outbreak in South America’s largest country may overtake the United States to become the world’s deadliest, some medical experts predict.
José Patané, a Butantan researcher, said the South African variant most likely arrived in Brazil after traveling through Europe toward the end of 2020.
The first local diagnosis, a woman in her 30s in the city of Sorocaba, had not traveled abroad or come into contact with someone who did, indicating local community transmission, researchers said in a study published on Sunday as a preprint on the medRxiv server.