South African Health Minister: No Need To Impose Lockdown Or Enforce Masks
South African Health Minister Joe Phala on Tuesday said the government will not impose a lockdown or reintroduce mandatory mask rule after the country reported its first case of the newly discovered Covid-19 XBB.1.5 sub-variant, reported The IOL.
In a briefing on Tuesday, Health Minister Phaahla said President Cyril Ramaphosa and the National Coronavirus Command Council have decided not to impose any restrictions on South Africans and refrain from implementing restrictions on arrivals from covid affected countries, including China and the United States.
Phala added the health authorities had been monitoring international developments with the virus, amid a 25% increase in global cases in December.
He said over 14 million new COVID-19 infections were recorded across the world in December, with 70% of all cases recorded in China, the US, South Korea, Japan, and Brazil. He added that there was a 12% increase in fatalities globally in December as compared to the previous month.
The South African health minister said the new infection rate had slowed in the last week of December, except in China where new positive cases increased by 45% and fatalities by 48%. He said there had been reports of overburdened hospitals and crematoriums.
“This is what has caused a lot of panic. A lot of countries imposed special requirements for travelers coming from China,” added Phaahla.
He said the increase in the positive cases can be attributed to the recent easing of restrictions in China, the large population, and low levels of immunization against the virus.
The health minister said as a precautionary measure, the South African government has decided to extend Covid-19 vaccine booster shots – currently available to people older than 50 – to all adults soon.
He said scientific advisors were currently looking at the change to the vaccination approach, and are expected to finalize the new protocol in the next few days.