By Hassan Isilow

JOHANNESBURG

South Africa has reported 9,445 new cases of the novel coronavirus in a 24-hour period, bringing the total number of infections in the country to 921,922, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize announced Sunday.

“Regrettably, 152 more COVID-19 deaths have been reported. We convey our condolences to the loved ones of the departed and thank healthcare workers that treated the deceased,” Mkhize said during his daily COVID-19 update to the nation.

He said the latest deaths have pushed the toll to 24,691 and the total number of recoveries is 793,914.

South Africa is currently experiencing a second wave of the pandemic. During its first peak of the pandemic in July, the country reported around 15,000 infections daily. Cases decreased in September and October but have picked up since late November.

South Africa has the highest number of COVID-19 cases and deaths on the continent and is the 18th most-affected country worldwide.

Flight bans

Turkey said Sunday that it is banning flights from both South Africa and the UK, where there is a new, fast-spreading virus strain.

Germany meanwhile said it is considering banning flights from the two countries, according to media reports.

New SARS variant

Last week, Health Minister Mkhize said scientists had found a variant of SARS-COV-2, the virus causing COVID-19, in South Africa, which is currently termed 501.V2.

“This genomics team, led by the Kwazulu-Natal Research Innovation and Sequencing Platform, or KRISP, has sequenced hundreds of samples from across the country since the beginning of the pandemic in March.

“Scientists reportedly noticed that a particular variant has increasingly dominated the findings of the samples collected in the past two months,” he said.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced new restrictions Saturday over the fast-spreading coronavirus strain covering London, the southeast and the east of England.​​​​​​​

The new Tier 4 rules necessitate that residents stay at home apart from limited exemptions and that non-essential retail, indoor gyms and leisure facilities and personal care services must close and people must work from home if they can until the next review on Dec. 30.

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