JOHANNESBURG

South Africa reported 8,725 new cases of the novel coronavirus in the last 24 hours, pushing the cumulative number of cases to 901,538, the health minister announced late Friday.

Zweli Mkhize said 274 more COVID-19 related deaths were also reported in the same period, bringing the total number of fatalities to 24,285.

The Western Cape, the country’s tourism hub, lost 101 people on Friday to the pandemic, followed by the Eastern Cape with 92 fatalities, KwaZulu-Natal 56 and Gauteng 15. The Free State had six deaths and Mpumalanga had four.

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

New SARS variant

In a statement, Mkhize said scientists had found the variant of the 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,’’ the minister said.

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

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