South Africa has officially entered its "third wave" of Covid-19 cases, putting further pressure on a healthcare system that is already dealing with the worst outbreak of the deadly virus in Africa.

The National Institute for Communicable Diseases said that the national seven-day average had exceeded the new wave threshold which is defined as 30 per cent of the peak infections of the previous wave.

Almost 10,000 new cases were reported on Thursday, with a 15.7 per cent positivity testing rate, bringing South Africa’s total number of cases to more than 1.7 million. 

The high number of cases is attributed to one of Africa’s best testing regimes and also the emergence of the more virulent South Africa variant.

South Africa’s vaccine rollout has been mired in problems, with only around half a million people out of its population of 58 million fully vaccinated.

Africa’s most developed country is planning to vaccinate 67 per cent of its population by March 2022 to achieve herd immunity.

The news comes as coronavirus cases across Africa have surged by 25 per cent over the last week, sparking fears that a third wave is well underway for the continent of 1.3 billion people.

Alan Winde, South Africa’s Western Cape premier, said that his province had already entered a “third wave”. “Our current projections are that this third wave will be less severe than the second wave, but we cannot be sure at this stage,” he told a digital press briefing on Thursday.

South Africa is the only African country to register more than one million Covid-19 cases and it has four times the amount of the second worst-hit country, Morocco. 

During the initial outbreak of the virus, South Africa was plunged into one of the most severe and long-lasting lockdowns seen anywhere in the world. Authorities moved South Africa into a level 2 lockdown at the end of May following months of low transmission.

However, officials are now calling for greater restrictions including a prohibition on unnecessary inter-provincial travel and the stricter enforcement of restrictions for restaurants. The last level 3 lockdown also included a complete ban on the sale of alcohol and the closure of land borders.