“We have convened this public briefing today to announce that a variant of the SARS-COV-2 Virus - currently termed 501.V2 Variant - has been identified by our genomics scientists here in South Africa,” Zweli Mkhize said.
Mkhize said it "noticed that a particular variant has increasingly dominated the findings of the samples collected in the past two months".
South African doctors have remarked that more patients are younger, and do not always have other conditions that amplify the virus' effect, but are nonetheless suffering from more severe forms of Covid-19.
“The evidence that has been collated, therefore, strongly suggests that the current second wave we are experiencing is being driven by this new variant,” Mkhize added.
South Africa has recorded the highest number of coronavirus infections in Africa, approaching the 900,000 mark, with over 20,000 related deaths. A resurgence in cases saw the government tighten restrictions on society this week.
The World Health Organization (WHO) said it was in touch with the South African researchers who identified the new variant.
The global body added there was no indication there were changes in the way the new strain of the virus was behaving.
Meanwhile, by the end of this year, up to one million Ukrainians will be infected with coronavirus.
"75 million people have fallen ill worldwide, almost 1,700,000 people have died as a result of complications from this disease. In Ukraine, the total number of recorded cases will reach one million by the end of this year," Prime Minister of Ukraine Denys Shmygal said.