The number of confirmed Coronavirus infections has risen to 642 431 after 1 990 new cases were recorded on Wednesday, said Health Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize.

Meanwhile, 82 more deaths were reported in a space of 24 hours.

Of the latest fatalities, 27 are from Gauteng, 22 from the Western Cape, 10 each from KwaZulu-Natal and the North West, eight from the Free State, and five from the Eastern Cape — bringing the death toll to 15 168.

Speaking to Radio Islam earlier this week, Mkhize said he was positive about the slowing rate of Coronavirus infections.

“We can safely say that we’re over the surge. June, July and August were the worst of our months, as predicted by our models. However, we found that it was not as many people as the model had suggested would be infected.”

Mkhize thanked citizens for taking heed of government’s precautionary measures.

In the past week, South Africa dropped further in ranking and it is now eighth in the world when it comes to the number of COVID-19 cases.

However, people should remain cautious to avoid a possible second wave of infections that some countries like Spain, Iran, Korea and the US are experiencing.

Mkhize expressed gratitude to religious leaders for the major role they played in curbing the further spread of the virus, and for the prayers and support they offered to those who were in distress.

He told listeners that people should get used to wearing masks, as they are here to stay.

“In January, when we didn’t have COVID-19, five people came from China wearing masks in a flight that landed in Cape Town. There was panic in the entire country and today, everyone is wearing a mask and if you’re not wearing a mask, you look abnormal and that is the nature of evolution.”

He said wearing masks had made a huge contribution in the fight against the deadly virus and contributed towards the country escaping the flu season.

“Social distancing, handwashing, sanitisers and masks are all our new normal, and we must get used to that before we get the vaccine.”

The second wave remains the risk citizens must keep in mind, he warned.

Currently, the hardest-hit provinces are Gauteng with 213 741 cases, followed by KwaZulu-Natal with 115 372, the Western Cape 107 624 and Eastern Cape 87 040.

“The total number of tests conducted to date is 3 842 898, with 21 736 new tests conducted since the last report,” Mkhize said.

A total of 569 935 patients have recovered, which translates to a recovery rate of 88.7%.

According to the World Health Organisation, there have been 27 486 960 confirmed cases of COVID-19, including 894 983 deaths reported globally.

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