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Leading scientists in South Africa believe the country has established a form of collective or herd immunity to COVID-19 after the number of infections unexpectedly plummeted following a major outbreak in June and July.
Commenting on a series of studies revealing the existence of high infection rates in the provinces of Western Cape and Gauteng, the country's leading vaccinologist, Professor Shabir Mahdi, told Sky News that he believed the coronavirus had stimulated a level of immunity in approximately 12 to 15 million people.
"What has happened in SA today, the only way to explain it, the only plausible way to explain it is that some sort of herd immunity has been reached when combined with the use of non-pharmaceutical interventions... like the wearing of masks, physical distancing, ensuring ventilation when indoors and so on."
At the height of the pandemic, South Africa was ranked as the world's fifth most-effected country, behind the US, India, Brazil and Russia - all of which have much larger populations.
It was at this point that researchers based in Cape Town began testing for traces of the virus in blood samples provided at local clinics by pregnant woman and HIV patients.
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