The Health department also reported an additional 411 COVID-19 related deaths which brings the total to 25 657 deaths. PHOTO: SA Gov News - Minister of Health Dr Zweli Mkhize

The South African government may have to review current lockdown restrictions and consider further measures to curb the exponential spread of the COVID-19 virus, says Health Minister, Dr Zwelini Mkhize. He warned that within days the number of daily positive cases recorded in SA will surpass that of the peak during the first wave.

The Minister’s remarks come as South Africa recorded 14 046 COVID-19 cases on Wednesday at a positivity rate of 26%, bringing the indicating cumulative total of cases to 954 258.

Spread of Covid-19 virus is faster than the first wave

“This indicates that the virus continues to spread exponentially- indeed the rate of spread is much faster than the first wave and we will surpass the peak of the first wave in the coming days.

“We must warn South Africans that we will need to review the current restrictions and consider further measures to ensure that we curb this alarming rate of spread,” said the Minister.

The Health department reported an additional 411 COVID-19 related deaths which brings the total to 25 657 deaths.

The Eastern Cape recorded 101, Free State 3, Gauteng 34, Kwa-Zulu Natal 90, Mpumalanga 6, North West 6 and the Western Cape 171 deaths.

A cumulative total of 6 269 776 tests have been conducted with 54 048 tests conducted since the last report.

All provinces, with the exception of the Eastern Cape, continue to report increases in their cases with KwaZulu-Natal at 30%, Western Cape at 28% and Gauteng province at 23% registering the largest increases and comprising 81% of the new cases.

Hotspots to be identified

“Therefore, it will be important for us to evaluate the situation in these provinces, identify hotspots in these areas and in other provinces where they may be identified and make recommendations based on these findings, and the outcomes of what has been implemented in the hotspots that have been identified so far,” said the Minister.

On Friday, Dr Mkhize announced that a variant of the SARS-COV-2 Virus (COVID-19) – currently termed the ‘501.V2 Variant’ – has been identified by genomics scientists in South Africa.

Professor Salim Abdool Karim, chairperson of South Africa’s COVID-19 ministerial advisory committee, said little is known about the severity of the new strain.

He revealed: “This new 501.V2 variant has become dominant in South Africa. This new variant has 3 mutations. We are seeing a much higher proportion of the new variant than the rest of the world. We don’t know where it originated. What we do know is that we first found it in Nelson Mandela Bay.”

Several countries including Germany and Israel have temporarily stopped all flights from SA to prevent the mutated virus entering their countries. Two cases have already been identified in England, where that country is already battling its own Covid-19 variant (called B.1.1.7), and as of this morning flights from SA into England have been stopped.

Mkhize urged South Africans to take every precaution necessary as they celebrate the festive season and look for reprieve from a tough year.

“Unfortunately, COVID-19 is unrelenting and we therefore cannot afford to be complacent at this stage. We urge all South Africans to adhere to the regulations and recommendations pertaining to the National State of Disaster, avoid large gatherings and congested environments, ensure adequate ventilation in venues where they gather and vigilantly adhere to non-pharmaceutical interventions,” he said. –