With 414 new virus-linked fatalities, death toll from the novel coronavirus in South Africa is nearing the 10,000 mark, officials said Thursday.

To date, the total number of COVID-19 cases is 529,877, including 9,298 deaths and 377,266 recoveries, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize announced.

Mkhize said 8,559 virus cases had been detected in the past 24 hours, adding that the country has now conducted over three million tests since the outbreak.

He said 34,989 tests were conducted in the said period.

South Africa is the fifth most-affected country globally in terms of COVID-19 infections, according to the US-based Johns Hopkins University.

The World Health Organization (WHO) on Wednesday sent 43 experts to support virus response management in Africa’s most advanced economy.

It said that among those being deployed is Dr David Heymann, a seasoned infectious disease epidemiologist and public health expert, who has also served as assistant director-general for health security and environment at the UN health agency.

Heymann headed the response to SARS epidemic in 2003, working with his team to mediate international efforts to halt the pandemic.

The southern African country, which had one of the most strictest lockdown regulations, opened much of its economy on June 1.

Citizens can exercise outside their homes, and go to places of worship.

Restrictions such as ban on international travel and selling of cigarettes, however, are still in place. A nighttime curfew from 10 p.m. to 4 a.m. local time is also in effect.

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