South African Health Minister Joe Phaahla on Friday said the country was entering its fourth wave of COVID-19 infections driven by the newly detected Omicron variant, reported Reuters. He assured that the hospitals were not under threat at the current stage.
During a media briefing, Phaahla informed that cases of the new coronavirus variant were now present in seven out of the country’s nine provinces. He said he hoped that the situation could be brought in control without causing too many deaths.
The South African Health minister said the country could manage the fourth COVID-19 wave of infections driven by the Omicron variant without invoking stricter lockdown restrictions.
“We can manage this fourth wave, we can manage Omicron. The basic tools we all know. We can still have a reasonably successful festive season,” he said.
He urged South Africans to be fully vaccinated, saying that getting fully vaccinated was the best protection against Omicron.
In related news, Michelle Groome, a top scientist from the South African National Institute for Communicable Diseases, has said that South Africa is facing an “unprecedented rise” in new COVID-19 cases over a short time due to the Omicron variant.
In a media briefing, Groome said additional data on the Omicron variant detected in the country last month is still needed to access the severity and transmissibility of the variant. According to the experts, those who have already had other variants of coronavirus do not appear to be protected against Omicron but vaccines are still believed to protect against severe disease.
Omicron, which was first identified in South Africa a week ago, has now been detected in at least 24 countries around the world, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). The WHO has deployed a surge team in Gauteng province to support surveillance and contact tracing.