State of Disaster Dr Joe Phaahla

Health Minister Joe Phaahla addresses NHI event at the International Conference on Population and Development,13 November 2019. Photo: Flickr / (Photo: GCIS)

South Africa CAN avoid a ‘Christmas lockdown’ – if these steps are followed

Health Minister Joe Phaahla said a lockdown-free Christmas was a possibility for South Africa but it will depend on the public’s behaviour.

State of Disaster Dr Joe Phaahla

Health Minister Joe Phaahla addresses NHI event at the International Conference on Population and Development,13 November 2019. Photo: Flickr / (Photo: GCIS)

South African Minister of Health Dr Joe Phaahla said his department remains optimistic about the COVID-19 situation in the country and added that there is a possibility that more stringent lockdown measures will not be implemented over the festive season – but it will depend on the public’s behaviour.

NO LOCKDOWN FOR SOUTH AFRICA?

In an interview with eNCA on Sunday night, 12 December, Phaahla touched on the transmissibility of the Omicron variant and said the virus is spreading quicker than in previous waves. However, a “silver lining” is that hospitalisation and deaths are relatively low.

The National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC) is expected to meet on Tuesday, 14 December. The spike in cases recently has prompted fears that South Africa will face harsher lockdown measures.

Phaahla was questioned about whether South Africa can expect a lockdown-free Christmas, which prompted him to crack a smile. “All that I can say is that it is promising. Let me put it that way,” said the Minister.

“The fourth wave is promising… around the same time last year we were starting to get into serious trouble,” said the Minister of Health.

“We are cautious, optimistic… promising. But, it is going to depend on our behaviour, as to how much we can continue to be cautious.”

The National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD) urged the public to be cautious – after the emergence of the Omicron variant – and recommended avoiding events that may become super spreaders, including indoor gatherings in poorly ventilated venues or large gatherings.

Dr Michelle Groome – the Head of the Division of Public Health Surveillance and Response – said adherence to non-pharmaceutical interventions are key to mitigating the impact of the fourth wave of infections.

“If individuals remain steadfast in implementing physical and social distancing, and by wearing their masks, transmission of the disease and ultimately the negative impact on our health sector will be lessened,” said Groome.

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