SA marks new record high Covid-19 infections on the last day of 2020

31 December 2020 - 20:46 By naledi shange
President Cyril Ramaphosa lit a candle to honour health care workers in SA, many of whom have succumbed to Covid-19, as health minister Zweli Mkhize revealed that positive cases had breached the 18,000 mark in a single day.
President Cyril Ramaphosa lit a candle to honour health care workers in SA, many of whom have succumbed to Covid-19, as health minister Zweli Mkhize revealed that positive cases had breached the 18,000 mark in a single day.
Image: GCIS

South Africa has recorded 18,000 positive coronavirus cases in the last 24 hours, setting a record high on the final day of 2020. 

This was announced by health minister Zweli Mkhize on Thursday, when he said: “For the first time in the history of the pandemic in South Africa, we have reached the 18,000 mark for new daily cases and have reached a cumulative total 1,057,161 cases.” 

More than 55,000 Covid-19 tests were conducted in the last 24 hours and 2020 was drawing to an end with a total of 28,469 Covid-19-related fatalities. 

Mkhize announced that of these casualties, 436 were public health care workers. Coincidentally, this was also the exact number of Covid-19 deaths reported across the country on this day. 

As the country sees a second wave of Covid-19 infections, Mkhize said all provinces had reported an increase in the numbers of health care workers who were infected with the virus. 

“The biggest increase coming from this province, KwaZulu-Natal, with 687 new cases,” he said. 

Breaking down the numbers, he said that of the more than 1 million Covid-19 cases recorded to date, 43,124 were accounted for by health care workers who bravely fought the battle from the front lines. 

Mkhize was speaking at the King Edward Hospital in Durban where a commemoration ceremony was being held for the thousands who lost their battle with Covid-19 since it first broke out in SA in March.

A candle lighting ceremony was to be held in their honour. 

We are here to remember our mothers, our fathers, our sisters, our brothers, our friends, our colleagues and our loved ones who have been so cruelly taken away from us by Covid-19,” said Mkhize.

He was joined by KwaZulu-Natal premier Sihle Zikalala and provincial health MEC Nomagugu Simelane Zulu. 

“As we light the candle, let it shine warm with hope, love and compassion for our fellow South Africans for a prosperous 2021 and a future where we can look back and say we defeated Covid-19 together, because we were in it together,” Mkhize said. 

Let us honour those who succumbed to Covid-19 by getting better at protecting one another,” he added.

Similar events are being held elsewhere in the country.

Healthcare workers light candles on December 31 2020 at Charlotte Maxeke Hospital in Johannesburg.
Healthcare workers light candles on December 31 2020 at Charlotte Maxeke Hospital in Johannesburg.
Image: Alaister Russell/Sunday Times

President Cyril Ramaphosa led a candle lighting ceremony at the Khayelitsha District Hospital in Cape Town, while in Johannesburg, mayor Geoff Makhubo joined a candle lighting ceremony on the Nelson Mandela bridge in Newtown. 

Ramaphosa was joined by Western Cape premier Alan Winde, religious leaders and medical personnel in the symbolic act to commemorate those who had succumbed to the virus and honour health care workers who he described as the “heroes and heroines” fighting the pandemic in SA.

“2020 has been a year from hell. It has been the most difficult year for all of us in SA,” he said.

He lauded health care workers who had been “willing to sacrifice everything so they can save the lives of many other people.

“We thank you from the bottom of our hearts. We could never thank you enough.”

He said the idea to light a candle came from South Africans, via many platforms including social media. He said many would light candles around the country, in their homes at midnight, as a symbol of respect and mourning for those who had departed, but also as a symbol of hope for the future. “We are in a dark valley of coronavirus destruction,” he said.

“Tonight you hold the candle of Florence Nightingale and you have always lit the way forward, you have always shown the way and we thank you for that ... You give hope, you give life and you also give direction,” he told health care workers.

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