JOHANNESBURG 

South Africa registered 547 new coronavirus deaths Tuesday, taking the country’s total number of fatalities to 44,946, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize announced. 

Mkhize said health officials also detected 2,649 more coronavirus cases after carrying out 28,942 new tests. 

The total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases identified in the country is now 1,458,958. 

“We convey our condolences to the loved ones of the departed and thank the health care workers who treated the deceased patients,” the minister said, adding the country has conducted more than 8.3 million tests for the virus. 

Mkhize said more than 1.3 million people have recovered so far from the deadly respiratory illness. 

On Monday, South Africa received its first consignment of a COVID-19 vaccine developed by the Serum Institute of India, the world’s largest vaccine producer. 

“The consignment, consisting of one million doses of the Covishield vaccine produced by the Serum Institute of India, arrived at OR Tambo International Airport,” President Cyril Ramaphosa said in a televised address to the nation. 

Ramaphosa said the vaccines will be tested at the country’s National Control Laboratory to confirm that their integrity has been maintained during transportation. 

“After testing, they will be distributed across the country to thousands of our health care workers who every day put their own lives at risk to save others,” he said, adding the country must ensure the protection of frontline workers first because they fight to protect the lives of others.  

“The arrival of these vaccines contains the promise that we can turn the tide on this disease that has caused so much devastation and hardship in our country and across the world,” he said. 

South Africa has the highest number of COVID-19 infections on the continent and is the 15th most affected country in the world.

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