Xanet Scheepers
Digital Lifestyle Editor
4 minute read
28 Nov 2021
8:51 pm

SA to remain on level 1 lockdown, talks about mandatory vaccines underway

Xanet Scheepers

Ramaphosa urged South Africans to avoid large indoor gatherings. He also said that large outdoor gatherings like the Matric Rage Festival, year-end functions and other outdoor functions should be avoided or postponed.

President Cyril Ramaphosa. Picture: Flicker/GCIS

President Cyril Ramaphosa addressed the nation on Sunday, on developments in the country’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Ramaphosa told South Africans that the country is better equipped to respond to the newly emerged omicron variant, and that there are a number of things scientists already know about the new variant:

  • Omicron has far more mutations than previous variants.
  • Omicron is readily detected by the current Covid-19 tests. This means that people who are showing Covid-19 symptoms or who have been in touch with someone who has been exposed to Covid-19 should still get tested.
  • This variant is different from other circulating variants and it is not directly related to the delta or beta variants.

Ramaphosa said that the new omicron variant is responsible for most of the infections found in Gauteng over the last two weeks, and that it is now also showing up in all other provinces in South Africa.

ALSO READ: Omicron: What to do and what to avoid when a new variant is discovered

“There are still a number of things about the variant that remains unknown, that our scientists in South African and other parts of the world are still hard at work to establish.

“Over the next few days and weeks as more data becomes available we will have a better understanding of whether omicron is transmitted more easily amongst people and whether it increases the risk of re-infection, and whether this variant causes a more severe risk of disease as well as how effective the current Covid-19 vaccine is against the omicron variant,” Ramaphosa said.

He added that the identification of the omicron variant coincides with a sudden rise of Covid-19 infections. “We have seen an average of 1 600 new cases in the last 7 days compared to just 500 new daily cases in the previous week and 275 new daily cases the week before that.”

Ramaphosa stressed that the proportion of Covid-19 tests that are positive have risen from about 2% to 9% in less than a week.

“If cases continue to rise we can expect to enter a fourth wave of the infections within the next few weeks if not sooner.”

He said there are several concerns about the omicron variant. “We are still not exactly sure how it will behave going forward, however, we already have all the tools to protect ourselves against it.”

Ramaphosa said the most important step is to get vaccinated. “Since the first Covid-19 vaccines have become available we have seen how vaccines dramatically reduce severe illness, hospitilasation and death in South Africa and across the world. Vaccines do work and they do save lives.”

Over 25 million vaccine doses have been administered in South Africa since the launch of the vaccination programme in May this year.

Over 41% of the adult population have already received one vaccine dose while 35.6% adult South Africans are fully vaccinated against Covid-19.

57% of people aged 60 years and older are fully vaccinated and 63% of people aged between 50 and 60 are also fully vaccinated.

Ramaphosa said while this is welcome progress, it is enough to enable us to reduce infections to prevent illness and death and to restore our economy.

The President called on every single South African to go to their nearest vaccination facility to get vaccinated.

“Get vaccinated to help protect yourselves and others against the omicron variant and get the economony and free social movement back on its feet.”

“By getting vaccinated you are not only protecting yourself and your family, you are also reducing pressure on the health care system and health care workers.”

Task team established to look into mandatory vaccinations

Ramaphosa said the government has been working with various sectors and having discussion between government, labour and community constitutency to implement mandatory vaccines for certain locations and activities.

He said a task team will be appointed who will report to cabinet.

“The introduction to such a matter is a complex issue, but if we don’t address this we will continue to be vulnerable for more coronavirus waves and new variants.”

He said South Africa will remain on alert level 1 lockdown going into the festive season but urged South Africans to avoid large indoor gatherings as well as large outdoor gatherings like Matric Rage Festival, year-end functions and other outdoor functions. He said these should be avoided or postponed as they are super-spreader events.

The National State of Disaster will also remain in place, and this along with the current alert level 1 lockdown will be re-evaluated in the coming days and weeks.