South Africa reports record daily COVID-19 cases of nearly 18,0000

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Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Johannesburg

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - South Africa reported a record 17,710 daily increase in coronavirus infections on Wednesday, surpassing the previous high of about 14,500 set several days ago.

"As of today, the cumulative total of COVID-19 cases identified is 1,039,161 with 17,710 (positivity rate

33%) cases identified since the last report," the health ministry said in a statement.

The positivity rate is the percentage of people testing positive of total people tested.

"The positivity rate, being an indicator of the rapidity of spread, remains of major concern," the ministry said.

South Africa, which has the highest number of cases on the continent, has been battling a major surge in coronavirus cases since the end of November, owing largely to a new strain of a virus called 501.V2, the government has said.

This has put a severe strain on hospitals with some medical facilities overflowing with patients, prompting the government to impose stricter lockdown measures.

The number of deaths a day has risen to an average of nearly 500 in the past few days, with the total death toll at more than 28,000.

(Reporting by Promit Mukherjee; Editing by Kim Coghill, Robert Birsel)