Ahead of this week’s National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC) meeting, the nation is anxiously waiting for its outcome, particularly on the tightening of lockdown restrictions during the festive season.
The increasing number of Covid-19 has raised serious concern to many people though the government has been trying to calm the situation.
President Cyril Ramaphosa is not happy with the sudden sharp increase of the transmission rate of the new variant that he called a meeting with the NCCC to discuss the way forward.
Sources within the presidency said Ramaphosa initially had no intentions to address the nation but might be forced to make several adjustment to the lockdown before the start of the festive period on Thursday.
The source said:
Since his return from a working tour in the West African countries, he has been doing a lot of consultations about the issue.
The source said the most concerning thing for the president was the high number of gatherings especially during the festive seasons.
The president might be forced to reduce the number of both indoors and outdoors gatherings.
In his weekly column, Ramaphosa said he was concerned about the large gathering as it carries out huge transmission.
“He is considering proposing to the NCCC and cabinet a few adjustments which include banning the sale of alcohol on weekends and public holidays until mid-January. Don’t be surprised when we have a family meeting before Thursday. He is serious about protecting the country,” said the source.
Meanwhile, it has been reported that Omicron spreads faster than its Sars-CoV-2 predecessors and early information shows vaccine is less effective in preventing infection.
Yet it seems this variant makes most people less ill.
Omicron patients’ prognosis is probably still improved by vaccines and previous infections, but breakthrough infections (where people have been vaccinated and/or have had Sars-CoV-2 before and get it again) are widespread, says Professor Willem Hanekom, head of the Africa Health Research Institute (AHRI) at the University of KwaZulu-Natal.
Health Minister Dr Joe Phaahla:
Patients experience the full spectrum of symptoms, but we do not yet know what the ratios are (from severe to moderate illness).
“Our figures also show that people (in hospitals) who are vaccinated do better than those who are not.”
Dr Michelle Groome, head of public health at the National Institute of Communicable Diseases (Nicd), said on Friday that there was an increase in hospitalisations, but that it was not increasing as fast as with previous waves.
“A smaller proportion of people are being admitted to hospital.”
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According to Groome, patients (for now) are also staying in hospital for a shorter time than before and end up significantly less often in intensive care and need less oxygen.
The median stay in hospital is now four days compared to around 18 days in the first wave last year.