Cheryl Kahla
Deputy Online News Editor
1 minute read
29 Nov 2021
11:42 am

Omicron: Keep unvaccinated people out of events, says Karim

Cheryl Kahla

According to Professor Salim Abdool Karim, new cases could exceed 10,000 by the end of the week.

Picture: iStock

South Africa is ready for the fourth wave of Covid-19 infections, however, expert epidemiologist Professor Salim Abdool Karim has recommended some steps vital in dealing with the new Omicron variant.

Speaking at the Ministry of Health’s briefing on South Africa’s state of readiness, Karim said there was no cause for concern at this stage.

Omicron variant updates

SA prepared for fourth wave

South Africa had been expecting and preparing for the fourth wave since September.

Government invested in building genomic sequencing capacity in Africa; particularly in South Africa. This gives SA the “best fighting chance”, especially in terms of dealing with Omicron.

Karim said some mutations associated with Omicron overlapped with the Alpha, Beta, Gamma, and Delta variant, while other mutations are not present in these variants of concern (VoC).

Increase in Covid-19 cases

However, researchers know from studying earlier variants that mutations cause a virus to become more infectious, while also making it harder for antibodies to attach to the virus.

Moreover, Karim said the seven-day moving average showed an increase of new Covid-19 cases and hospitalisations.

How South Africa should deal with Omicron

Karim said we should expect higher transmissibility; he predicts new cases could exceed 10,000 (and more hospitalisations) by the end of the week.

Secondly, Karim said our public health measures were effective, and citizens should adhere to these measures.

These measures, as we know by now, include mask-wearing, hand sanitising and washing, and social distancing.

He said the biggest challenge would be to curb super-spreader events, and one way to achieve that would be to reduce the risk of transmission, especially indoors.

Since vaccinated people were less likely to contract severe Covid-19, he suggested “restricting risky indoor events to vaccinated-only people”.