18,035 daily cases of Covid in South Africa amid Omicron

South Africa has recorded 18,035 daily cases of the coronavirus as a fourth wave of infections fueled by the omicron variant tears apart across the country.

The country also recorded 19,840 "retrospective" positive test results that had not been included in previous totals, data from the National Institute of Communicable Diseases showed in a statement on Sunday. Among the tests carried out on Sunday, 28.9% were positive.

The still high infection rate comes as the country's economy contracted more than expected in the third quarter and the unemployment rate hit a new high of 34.9%. This will make it difficult for President Cyril Ramaphosa to place the country under a more stringent form of lockdown when he meets with his cabinet to discuss the issue.

The numbers also reduce the chances that more than 90 countries that have banned travel to and from South Africa will lift restrictions. PwC estimates that the bans could cost the country up to 6.5 billion rand ($ 407 million) in potential overseas revenue, which would put pressure on growth in the fourth quarter.

Most infections with the variant have so far occurred in Gauteng, the province where Johannesburg is located and the capital, Pretoria. It recorded 42% of new cases, followed by KwaZulu-Natal with 16% and the Western Cape with 13%.

South Africa's official death toll of over 90,000 and around 3.2 million cases makes it the hardest-hit country in Africa, although testing and accurate recording of the causes of the virus deaths are low across much of the continent. A number of its neighbors, including Zimbabwe, are also in the throes of a fourth wave of coronavirus infections and vaccine rollout is slow.

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