The COVID-19 second wave is showing signs of slowing down in South Africa, with 3 754 new cases recorded in the last 24 hours.
A reported 261 people succumbed to the respiratory disease, official data showed on Thursday.
Of the recent deaths, 56 were reported in KwaZulu-Natal, 53 in Gauteng, 44 in the Eastern Cape, 42 in the North West, 41 in the Western Cape, 12 in the Free State, 11 in Limpopo and two in the Northern Cape.
The total number of COVID-19 cases reported in the country now stands at 1 466 767, while the death toll has jumped to 45 605.
“We convey our condolences to the loved ones of the departed and thank the healthcare workers who treated the deceased patients,” said Health Minister, Dr Zweli Mkhize.
The worst-hit regions continue to be KwaZulu-Natal with 42 016 active cases, followed by the Western Cape with 12 631.
Meanwhile, Gauteng has 9 115 patients who are currently infected, 8 771 in the Free State and 7 943 in the North West.
In addition, 1 327 186 people have recovered from COVID-19 to date, representing a recovery rate of 90.5%.
The data is based on the 8 400 319 tests conducted, 31 032 of which were done since the last report.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has reported 103 989 900 cases globally, including 2 260 259 deaths.
According to WHO, COVAX expects to start sending millions of COVID-19 vaccines to Africa this month.
The global initiative – led by the WHO, Gavi the Vaccine Alliance and The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) – aims to start shipping nearly 90 million COVID-19 vaccine doses to the continent in February, in what will be Africa’s largest mass vaccination campaign.
“Africa has watched other regions start COVID-19 vaccination campaigns from the sidelines for too long. This planned rollout is a critical first step to ensuring the continent gets equitable access to vaccines.
“We know no one will be safe until everyone is safe,” said WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti.
COVAX notified countries through letters, which were sent on 30 January 2021.
According to WHO, the final shipments will be based on the production capacities of vaccine manufacturers and the readiness of countries amid surging demand for vaccines.
In addition, around 320 000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine have been allocated to four African countries – Cabo Verde, Rwanda, South Africa and Tunisia.
This vaccine has received WHO Emergency Use Listing but requires countries to be able to store and distribute doses at minus 70 degrees Celsius.
Moeti has urged African nations to ramp up readiness and finalise their national vaccine deployment plans.
“Regulatory processes, cold chain systems and distribution plans need to be in place to ensure vaccines are safely expedited from ports of entry to delivery. We can’t afford to waste a single dose,” said Moeti.
The initial phase of 90 million doses will support countries to immunise 3% of the African population most in need of protection, including health workers and other vulnerable groups in the first half of 2021.
“As production capacity increases and more vaccines become available, the aim is to vaccinate at least 20% of Africans by providing up to 600 million doses by the end of 2021,” said Moeti.
The African Union has secured 670 million vaccine doses for the continent, which will be distributed in 2021 and 2022 as countries secure adequate financing.
WHO said the African Export-Import Bank will facilitate payments by providing advance procurement commitment guarantees of up to US$2 billion to the manufacturers on behalf of countries.