Since announcing its first case in March, South Africa has registered at least one million cases of coronavirus, the Ministry of Health said late on Sunday.
This unprecedented wave of the virus is happening just days after a new, more quickly spreading strain of the virus was confirmed to be breaking out in the region.
“Today, we have breached one million cumulative cases of COVID-19 in South Africa, with a cumulative total of 1,004,413 cases reported,” the ministry said in a statement.
The estimated number of casualties jumped to 26,735.
Nine days after the region recorded 900,000 cases, the epidemic in the worst-hit country in Africa seems to be escalating with the one million marks crossed.
It took South Africa two weeks to cross 900,000 cases, compared with 800,000 at the beginning of December.
Several clinics and medical centers have confirmed wards filled with patients canceling their holidays to handle a massive influx of patients and many healthcare staff.
Among the top three private hospital networks in South Africa, Mediclinic International said on Sunday that a severe spike in cases had put tremendous pressure on its healthcare services, including staff, supplies, and beds for chronically ill patients.
A team of scientists from across South Africa who have been tracking the genetics of the virus identified the latest variant, referred to as 501.V2.
The variant tends to be localized in the country’s south and southeast and has controlled the results of samples collected since October, they said.
According to local media News24, the Coronavirus Command Council, the highest government body overseeing the outbreak, convened on Sunday to determine if more steps such as stronger lockdowns or tougher limits on public travel could be enforced.
Later this week, President Cyril Ramaphosa will be able to send a TV address.
In South Africa, the number of daily cases has already exceeded the July high. It posted a total of 14,796 cases on December 25,