South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has asked citizens to get Covid vaccine to avoid hospitalisation and serious illness (file photo). Photograph:( AFP )
President Cyril Ramaphosa has called on South Africans to prioritise getting vaccinated in order to avoid hospitalisation and serious illness amidst the spread of new Covid variant, Omicorn. The World Health Organisation has declared it a ‘variant of concern’
President Cyril Ramaphosa has called on South Africans to prioritise getting vaccinated in order to avoid hospitalisation and serious illness amidst the spread of new Covid variant, Omicron.
The World Health Organisation has named it Omicron and has declared it a ‘variant of concern’.
The Omicron variant was first described in Botswana and subsequently in South Africa and scientists have also identified cases in countries, such as Hong Kong, Australia, Belgium, Italy, the United Kingdom, Germany, Austria, Denmark and Israel.
The identification of Omicron coincides with a sudden rise in COVID-19 infections. This rise has been centered at Gauteng while the cases are also rising in other provinces.
"If cases continue to climb, we can expect to enter a fourth wave of infections within the next few weeks, if not sooner. This should not come as a surprise,” said Ramaphosa.
Epidemiologists and disease modellers have also told us that we should expect a fourth wave in early December, added the president.
“Scientists have also told us to expect the emergence of new variants," Ramaphosa said in address to the nation on Sunday.
So far, 41 per cent of the adult population in South Africa have received at least one dose of coronavirus vaccine and 35.6 per cent of adult South Africans have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
Significantly, 57 per cent of people, who are 60 years old and above, are fully vaccinated and 53 per cent of people, who are aged between 50 and 60, are fully vaccinated.
"Tonight, I would like to call on every person, who has not been vaccinated to go to their nearest vaccination station without delay...Vaccination is by far the most important way to protect yourself and those around you against the Omicron variant to reduce the impact of the fourth wave and to help restore the social freedoms we all yearn for," the president urged.
He added that government has also set up a task team that will undertake broad consultations on making vaccination mandatory for specific activities and locations.
"We realise that the introduction of such measures is a difficult and complex issue, but if we do not address this seriously and as a matter of urgency, we will continue to be vulnerable to new variants and will continue to suffer new waves of infection," Ramaphosa added.
Meanwhile, the government has decided that the country will continue to remain on Coronavirus Alert Level 1 for now and the National State of Disaster will remain in place.
"In taking the decision to not impose further restrictions at this stage, we considered the fact that when we encountered previous waves of infection, vaccines were not widely available and far fewer people were vaccinated.
That is no longer the case. Vaccines are available to anyone aged 12 and above, free of charge, at thousands of sites across the country. We know that they prevent severe disease and hospitalisation, the president said.
Shortly before his speech, the National Institute for Communicable Diseases on Sunday reported 2,858 new Covid cases, with 18 hospital admissions in the past 24 hours.
The proportion of positive new cases against the total new tested is 9.8%, which is higher than Saturday's (9.2%). The seven-day average is 6.1%.
The majority of new cases on Sunday were from Gauteng (81%), followed by the Western Cape accounting for 5% and KwaZulu-Natal accounted for 4%.