A total of 27 403 new positive Covid-19 cases and 25 additional deaths were recorded in South Africa as of Thursday, Minister of Health Zweli Mkhize said in a late-night statement.
Among the latest to die of the virus is an employee of the National Health Laboratory Service (NHLS) who was admitted to hospital after testing positive a few weeks ago, Mkhize said.
The 25 new deaths brings the death toll to 577.
The Western Cape, the province with the highest number of cases in the country, saw an increase of 861 cases from Wednesday's tally, bringing its total to 17 754. The province is followed by Gauteng and the Eastern Cape with 3 329 and 3306 cases, respectively.
Mkhize said 20 727 tests were conducted in the past 24 hours, bringing the total number of tests conducted to 655 723.
Indicators revealed by the department show that the Western Cape has conducted 143 741 tests and 511 588 community screenings, with 98% of contacts traced. Gauteng, has recorded 209 657 tests and 1 559 279 screenings. The Eastern Cape has conducted 62 586 tests and 1 133 789 community screenings.
Mkhize said a lot had been done to synchronise test figures, and added that reported figures were of tests conducted.
"Several tests are concluded, however a backlog arises where a number of them are not allocated per province. Of the specimens that have been collected based on the clinical prioritisation, some specimens do not immediately get processed resulting in a backlog in tests. This means tests are not concluded on the same day when the specimen is received," Mkhize said.
Mkhize said as of 27 May, 634 996 tests had been conducted and of those, 29 948 tests reflected a backlog of unallocated tests.
Reasons behind the backlog include insufficient data which requires National Institute for Communicable Diseases verification before they can be allocated to a province, Mkhize said.
He confirmed that as of 25 May, the exact figure of specimen that had not been processed was 96 480.
"As we have previously explained, this challenge is caused by the limited availability of test kits globally (that is, inadequate supply of extraction kits and high throughputs of PCR kits)," Mkhize said.
The minister said a lack of capacity was a global challenge and that priority was being given to specimens received from admitted patients and healthcare workers over those conducted from the community screening campaign.
"We continue to engage suppliers all over the world and have issued licences through SAHPRA (SA Health Products Regulatory Authority) as part of mitigating this capacity challenge," he said.
News24 reported on Thursday that there was a national backlog of 100 000 tests, according to Western Cape Premier Alan Winde.
Winde outlined the change in the provincial testing strategy since last week, from actively testing as many potential contacts of a confirmed case as possible to reserving tests for patients in hospitals.