South Africa confirmed 158 new deaths from the novel coronavirus Thursday, taking the total number of fatalities to 18,309, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize announced. 

Mkhize said 1,770 people had been diagnosed with COVID-19 in the past 24 hours, pushing the number of confirmed cases nationwide to 698,184. 

He further said that 628,301 people had recovered from the virus, which translates to a recovery rate of 90%. 

The minister added that so far, 4.4 million people have been tested for the virus since it was first detected in the country seven months back. Meanwhile, 22,609 people were tested in the past 24 hours.  

South Africa has the highest number of COVID-19 cases on the African continent and is the 11th most affected country globally.

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