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South Africa tops 60,000 coronavirus deaths

South Africa, the worst virus-hit country in the continent, on Monday crossed the threshold of 60,000 coronavirus deaths, health officials announced, a day after a stricter lockdown was enforced.

“A further 138 covid-19 related deaths have been reported, bringing total fatalities to 60,038 to date,” the National Institute for Communicable Diseases tweeted on Monday.

At least 512 new hospital admissions were reported on Monday, pushing the total number of hospitalised people to 11,801.

“The condition of the patient is so much worse,” than the first two waves, Elsabe Conradie, chief executive and doctor at eMalahleni Private Hospital east of Johannesburg told AFP Monday.

“They get much, much sicker and so many of them never leave the hospital,” she said.

The health authority said 12,222 new cases had been recorded over the last 24 hours — 28.3 percent of those tested.

Gauteng province — home to the administrative capital Pretoria and financial hub Johannesburg — is the outbreak’s current epicentre, accounting for around 69 percent of the latest daily increase.

Government and scientists at the weekend announced that the highly contagious Delta variant was driving the surge in South African Covid-19 infections, which is testing the capacity of hospitals.

To curb the spread, President Cyril Ramaphosa reimposed restrictions for two weeks from Monday, banning all gatherings except for funerals where numbers will be capped at 50 people.

With rising caseloads and a sluggish vaccine rollout, South Africa is experiencing a third wave with new daily cases doubling over the past two weeks.

The country’s vaccination drive has been slow. Around 2.7 million of its 59 million people have been immunised since February, but Ramaphosa has said the innoculation exercise is gaining momentum.