South African health minister says Omicron manageable with basic tools
- South African health minister said that the 4th wave of infections can be managed
- The minister condemned people for ignoring symptoms and going out in public
- South Africa reported the Omicron variant on November 24
Joe Phaahla, South African Health Minister, said that the country can manage the fourth wave of infections driven by the Omicron variant of COVID-19 without bringing in further restrictions. Adding to this, he urged the mass to follow protocols and get the COVID-19 vaccine.
“We can manage this fourth wave; we can manage Omicron with the basic tools we all know,” Phaahla said.
The Omicron variant, which has raised fears of a surge in infections around the world, was first detected in South Africa last month.
“We can still manage this in a manner where government doesn’t have to invoke serious restrictions over the next few days if we all just do our basic duties of the safety measures and also if more of us who are eligible – everybody from 12 years upwards – approach the nearest vaccination sites to receive our jab,” he said during a media briefing on Friday.
Fuelled by the new variant, new COVID-19 cases in South Africa have increased from about 200 a day in mid-November to more than 16,000 on Friday.
The Omicron variant has over 50 mutations, and scientists have called it a big jump in the evolution of the virus.
When questioned about the future lockdown measures amid the exponentially rising cases, the Health Minister said there would be a meeting in the coming week.
“We needed just over a week to monitor the situation and see what measures need to be taken. At this stage, one would not want to pre-empt. There will be a meeting in the coming week and we will look at among other things the rapid rise (in infections), but we will also look at whether we need to raise the restrictions from the Level One where we are,” Phaahla said.
South Africa uses a five-level lockdown strategy and is currently at the lowest Level One.
“While we are saying what the government is going to do, all of us individually and collectively could even reduce the level to which regulatory intervention would be required by simply wearing masks and the key really is just avoiding big gatherings, especially indoors,” he explained.
Phaahla noted that only a small number of people who have been vaccinated have gotten sick, mostly with mild cases, while the vast majority of those who have been hospitalised were not vaccinated.
The minister strongly condemned people for ignoring symptoms and going out in public, thereby putting others at risk.