Cases of the novel coronavirus and deaths related to the disease have started to decline in South Africa, the country’s health minister said Saturday.

“Today, we cautiously but optimistically breathe a sigh of relief as we continue to see our detected cases, hospital admissions, deaths and even excess deaths declining,” Zweli Mkhize said at a nursing conference, where his statements were posted on Twitter.

He said the country’s recovery rate was now almost at 90% and the mortality rate was stable at around 2%.

The country’s top doctor further revealed that mothers affected by COVID-19 had given birth to healthy babies.

“They are breastfeeding and physically bonding with their children, laying foundations for wholesome upbringing and solid building blocks for a healthy and prosperous society,” he said.

Mkhize added that these achievements were possible because of the passion, dedication and sheer diligence of the country’s nurses and midwives.

“We thank you for braving the threat of being infected yourself, and even of death,” he told nurses.

He said over 31,000 health care workers, many of them nurses and midwives, contracted COVID-19, including 240 who died of the disease.

South Africa, which has the highest number of COVID-19 infections in Africa and is the eighth most affected country globally, has 646,398 cases and 15,378 deaths.

The daily case rise dropped to less than 3,000 compared to June and July, when infections hovered between 8,000 and 10,000 a day. At least 574,587 people have recovered from the pandemic in the country.

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