President Ramaphosa told to open borders

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Health minister says locals may have ‘underpinning immunity’ to virus.

There is no reason for South Africa’s borders to remain closed, nor is there a need for arriving tourists to be quarantined for several weeks as visitors, even if infected, would not lead to a massive outbreak, say experts.

As the country is seeing a steady decline in Covid-19 infections, there seems to be no medical reasons for the borders to remain closed as the virus is now locally transmitted.

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This was something the ministerial advisory committee would likely recommend to government, said member and vaccinologist Professor Shabir Madhi.

Speaking during a recent webinar, he said even if international visitors were infected, they posed little threat had they followed the pharmaceutical interventions put in place.

“Opening the borders probably will have a nominal effect in terms of the future trajectory of this outbreak.

“Having a few visitors come across, even if they are infected with the virus, is not going to lead to massive outbreaks.

“That is the advice I’d give [to government] and I expect many other members would provide similar advice. We are not in this sort of space to contain viral transmission, which is when we need border closure,” Madhi said.

Wits University of School of Governance Professor Alex van den Heever said the virus was now a “localised disease” which would not be fed by an international tourist.

“Someone from overseas is not going to feed the epidemic again because it is already there. South Africa is in a position where it has to manage the risk of transmission with an opened economy and that can be done if we stick to protocols,” he said.

But the country was not yet out of the woods as revised models currently predict that about 20% of the population, detected and undetected, were infected with Covid-19. This translated to about 12 million South Africans, Minister of Health Zweli Mkhize said on Monday.

He said the department was conducting a national seroprevalence study to unveil the status of national immunity.

“There is a possibility that there is some sort of underpinning immunity present in South Africans,” he said.

– The Citizen


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