South Africa recorded 132 new coronavirus-related deaths in the past 24 hours, bringing the total number of fatalities to 16,866, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize announced late Thursday.  

Mkhize said 1,745 new COVID-19 cases had also been recorded on the same day, pushing the nationwide figure to 676,084. 

The number of new COVID-19 infections and deaths in the country had started declining in the past three weeks but are again starting to pick up. 

On Wednesday, the country registered 1,767 new cases and 67 more people succumbed to the disease. 

The country’s top health official said they have conducted 4.2 million tests since the virus was first detected in the country six months ago, with 21,132 tests conducted in the past 24 hours. 

“Our recoveries now stand at 609,854 people, which translates to a recovery rate of 90%,” Mkhize said. 

South Africa has the highest number of COVID-19 cases in Africa and is the 10th most affected country globally. 

On Tuesday, Mkhize advised South Africans not to relax now that COVID-19 restrictions have been eased or they risk being hit by a second wave of the virus which could be more devastating than the first one. 

“We must proceed with the same level of vigilance and care, understanding that the risk of being forced back into a hard lockdown remains very real,” he wrote on Twitter. 

The minister also said the government can never allow the virus to run rampant, causing a massive loss of life. 

Country opens borders 

On Thursday, the country opened its borders to international travelers, barring those from high-risk countries. 

The government listed 60 countries as being high risk, including the US, the UK, Russia and several countries in the Middle East and Latin America. 

The country had closed ports of entry in March to stem the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.  

In a statement, the government said that all travelers visiting the country will be expected to abide by health regulations which include the mandatory wearing of masks, practicing social distancing in public spaces and sanitizing of hands.  

They will also be required to produce a PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test not later than 72 hours from the time of departure from their country of origin.

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