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By Cheryl Kahla

Content Strategist

Health dept ready for festive season, 1 350 ambulances deployed

Dr Phaahla said contingency plans are in place and 1 350 ambulances have been deployed across SA.

Minister of Health Dr Joe Phaahla briefed the public on the stability of the Covid-19 pandemic in South Africa, including the latest variant. 

Dr Phaahla was joined by provincial MECs and other topics on the agenda included the recent measles outbreak as well as the rising number of laboratory-confirmed cases in several provinces. 

Health briefing, 8 December

The panel provided clarity on the state of readiness of emergency medical services and general health services for the festive season ahead. 

Festive season readiness

Dr Phaahla said emergency personnel in all provinces have contingency plans in place “which are aligned with Arrive Alive and the Road Safety Campaign led by the Department of Transport”. 

The teams are preparing to deal with a spike in motor vehicle accidents, pedestrian accidents, alcohol-related incidents, domestic abuse and gender-based violence, drownings, gang violence and such. 

Phaahla said: “We have deployed strategic resources according to the needs and demands of each and every area across the country”. 

These include: 


  • Ambulances; 
  • Rapid response units 
  • Aeromedical services 
  • Disaster buses 

Phaahla said even though the number of new Covid-19 cases remains low, “sub-variants of Omicron continue to be detected at low levels across the country”. 

BA.5 variant and long-Covid deaths

As reported this week, a new Covid-19 variant was responsible for more than 60% of Covid-19 cases in the United States. The BA.5 variant – a highly contagious Omicron subvariant – carries a few extra mutations than previous variants. 

As per Discovery Health’s recent report, long Covid-19 was likely the cause for a significant increase in Covid-related deaths.

This was backed by the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC), which said death rates were “higher than they should be”.

ALSO READ: Long Covid is causing a significant increase in deaths

Vaccine update

Most vaccine centres have been closed since vaccination “is now integrated in our primary health care services”. That said, the target of immunising 70% of the adult population remains as is. 

Phaahla said adults, between the ages of 18 and 49, are eligible to receive three booster doses, while those aged 50 and older may receive four doses. 

He added: “From early in 2023, all children aged 5 to 11 years living with conditions that place them at risk of severe COVID disease will be offered vaccination with two doses of the paediatric Comirnaty vaccine. 

“This will include children with chronic respiratory, heart, neurological, kidney, liver and gastrointestinal conditions as well as those with certain endocrine disorders, conditions associated with immunosuppression and serious genetic abnormalities,” Phaahla said.

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