South Africa surpassed 1 million coronavirus cases amid spread of a new, more infectious variant

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People wearing face masks walk at a shopping mall as they continue their daily life amid coronavirus in Cape Town.

South Africa surpassed 1 million cases of coronavirus cases amid the emergence of a new, more infectious variant that local authorities have tied to a recent surge in cases. 

The new variant of the novel coronavirus, referred to as 501.V2, has been linked to a recent surge in cases in South Africa. Local health authorities said between 80 to 90% of new coronavirus cases are from the new variant, Reuters reported.

Since the new variant was confirmed, several countries including Israel, Turkey, Germany, and Switzerland restricted incoming and outgoing travel with South Africa, Business Insider South Africa reported.

As of Monday, South Africa has recorded more than 1 million confirmed cases and 26,000 deaths related to the coronavirus, according to Johns Hopkins University.

The surge of new cases is putting an overwhelming burden on South African hospitals.

"The numbers of patients seeking care within our hospitals has exceeded previous numbers during the first peak and the majority of our ICU and high-care units are operating at capacity," Mediclinic International, which is one of the leading private hospital networks in South Africa, told The Guardian.

The coronavirus variant discovered in South Africa, alongside a different, but possibly more infectious variant confirmed in the United Kingdom, has pushed countries around the world to impose travel restrictions to prevent the variant from spreading.

CEOs behind the leading vaccines for the coronavirus have spoken out in recent weeks to signal that their vaccines will likely protect against the new variant. BioNTech's CEO said that it was "highly likely" that their vaccine made with Pfizer can deal with the new variant found in the UK. The CEO of AstraZeneca said that their coronavirus vaccine "should remain effective" against the coronavirus variants found in the UK and South Africa.

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