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President Cyril Ramaphosa says the Omicron variant appears to be dominating new infections in most provinces. File picture: REUTERS/LUC GNAGO
President Cyril Ramaphosa says the Omicron variant appears to be dominating new infections in most provinces. File picture: REUTERS/LUC GNAGO

As the country battles its fourth wave of Covid-19 infections, President Cyril Ramaphosa says a meeting with the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC) to review the state of the pandemic will take place soon.   

This as daily infections have increased five-fold after the emergence of the Omicron variant. 

Writing in his Monday weekly newsletter, Ramaphosa said this was of concern.

“We are experiencing a rate of infections we have not seen since the pandemic started. The Omicron variant that was brought to global attention by SA scientists nearly two weeks ago appears to be dominating new infections in most provinces. 

“Over the last week, the number of daily infections has increased five-fold. Nearly a quarter of all Covid-19 tests now come back positive. Compare this to two weeks ago, when the proportion of positive tests was at about 2%,” he said.

Ramaphosa said the meeting with the NCCC would enable the country to “take whatever further measures are needed to keep people safe and healthy”.

The president again called on the nation to get vaccinated, saying it was more important than ever with the festive season looming.

“The urgent priority is for more people to get vaccinated. Scientific evidence shows vaccination is the most effective means to prevent the spread of infections, and that vaccines reduce severe illness, hospitalisation and death.”

Ramaphosa reiterated that vaccination would not only safeguard people’s lives but would also aid economic recovery.

“Vaccination is essential for our economic recovery because as more people are vaccinated, more areas of economic activity will be opened. We can do our work and socialise under less stringent restrictions, and our lives can return to some degree of normality.” 

He moved to assure South Africans that sufficient vaccines had been procured and vaccine stations were set up in every area in the country. 

Non-pharmaceutical precautions were equally important as the country battles the Omicron variant. 

“We need to be far more diligent in reducing our contact with people outside our household. Social distancing is difficult as the festive season approaches, but evidence shows gatherings — mainly those held indoors — carry the greatest risk of transmission.  

“Fortunately, we all know what we need to do, such as wearing masks, social distancing and avoiding crowds. We need to make sure we do these things more consistently and without exception.” 

The president said scientists in the country and around the world were hard at work to answer critical questions about the Omicron variant, including its transmissibility and progression, whether it causes more severe disease and how effective vaccines will be against it. 

“In the coming days and weeks we will know more about the Omicron variant. At the same time we are keeping a close eye on the rates of infection and hospitalisation. 

“While we do not yet know what impact the Omicron variant will have on hospital admissions, we have been preparing hospitals to admit more patients, and we are investigating how we can quickly secure medication for treating Covid-19.”

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