JOHANNESBURG, March 28 (Reuters) – South Africa plans to administer coronavirus vaccines to up to 200,000 people a day beginning around May, the Sunday Times newspaper said on Sunday, citing Health Minister Zweli Mkhize.

According to the report, more than 2,000 vaccination sites will be set up. The plan is based on the expected arrival of the first batch of 2.8 million Johnson & Johnson vaccine doses at the end of April, the newspaper said.

The Health Ministry did not respond to telephone calls and text messages from Reuters seeking comment.

South Africa has been the hardest hit nation on the continent by COVID-19. It has recorded both the highest number of cases in Africa – more than 1.5 million – and of deaths, with more than 50,000 fatalities.

The vaccination rollout has been slow, with only 231,605 people, mainly frontline health workers, inoculated so far. The government plans to vaccinate 40 million people, or two-thirds of the population.

After pausing the rollout of the AstraZeneca vaccine in February, South Africa started inoculating healthcare workers with Johnson & Johnson shots.

The government previously said it had secured 20 million doses of the two-dose Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in bilateral negotiations, with deliveries ramping up from the second quarter of the year.

(Reporting by Mfuneko Toyana Editing by Frances Kerry)

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