South Africa on verge of new virus rules as it hits 1M cases
JOHANNESBURG (AP) - South Africa's COVID-19 spike led the country to more than 1 million confirmed cases on Sunday, and President Cyril Ramaphosa convened an emergency meeting of the National Coronavirus Command Council.
The new variant of the country, the coronavirus 501.V2, is more contagious and, according to experts, has quickly caught on in many areas of resurgence.
With hospitals in South Africa reaching their capacity and there is no evidence that the new surge is peaking, Ramaphosa is expected to announce the return to restrictive measures to slow the spread of the disease.
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"We are not helpless in the face of this variant," said the specialist in infectious diseases, Dr. Richard Lessells, opposite The Associated Press. "We can change our behavior to give the virus less chance of spreading." He said the most important thing was to avoid contact with others in enclosed indoor spaces.
South Africa announced a total of 1,004,431 confirmed cases of COVID-19 on Sunday evening. That number includes 26,735 deaths in a country of 60 million people.
"One million cases is a major milestone, but the real number of cases and deaths is almost certainly much higher," Lessells said.
"We saw the new variant spread rapidly," he said, pointing out that genome sequencing shows it has become dominant in the coastal provinces of Western Cape, Eastern Cape, and KwaZulu-Natal. It is not yet certain whether the variant in the inland Gauteng Province, to which Johannesburg belongs and is the country's most populous province, is just as dominant.
"When people return from their coastal holidays, we can expect them to bring the variant with them," Lessells said. "We can also expect travelers to take the variant with them across the borders to other African countries."
The mutation in the COVID-19 virus has caused it to bind to cells in our bodies more efficiently, experts say.
Vaccinations have not yet reached South Africa, although Ramaphosa expected 10% of the country's 60 million people to be vaccinated in the first few months of 2021.
The seven-day average of daily new cases in South Africa has almost doubled in the past two weeks from 10.24 new cases per 100,000 people on December 12th to 19.86 new cases per 100,000 people on December 26th. The death toll has also nearly doubled, with the seven-day moving average of daily deaths in South Africa rising from 0.25 deaths per 100,000 people on December 12 to 0.48 deaths per 100,000 people on December 26 in the past two weeks.
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