South Africa reported 64 new coronavirus deaths in a 24-hour period, bringing the total number of fatalities to 15,705, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said late Wednesday.   

Mkhize said there were 1,923 new COVID-19 cases recorded, putting the total number at 653,444. 

Cases of COVID-19 had slowed down in South Africa in the past week compared to two months ago, when the country was recording around 12,000 new infections per day.  

The country is now on average recording less than 2,000 cases a day. As a result, President Cyril Ramaphosa on Wednesday further relaxed lockdown restrictions to allow a full return to economic activity.  

He also announced that the country would ease restrictions on international travel from Oct. 1.  

According to the Health Ministry, a total of 584,195 people have recovered from the pandemic, which translates to a recovery rate of 89%.  

Nearly 4 million people have been tested so far for COVID-19 in Africa’s most affected nation and one of the top 10 most affected countries globally.  

“Although we have made remarkable progress, a number of our people are still getting infected, and some are losing their lives,” said Ramaphosa.  

He said by any measure, South Africans are still in the midst of a deadly epidemic.  

“Our greatest challenge now – and our most important task – is to ensure that we do not experience a new surge in infections,” he warned.  

He said they have now decided to keep increasing coronavirus testing.  

“Due to the decline in new infections and the reduced pressure on our health facilities, we now have sufficient testing capacity to expand the criteria for testing,” he noted.  

The president said all those admitted to hospitals, outpatients with COVID-19 symptoms and individuals who have been in close contact with confirmed cases will be tested.

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