A significant number of Covid-19 patients in intensive care units (ICU) are unvaccinated, according to the South African Medical Association (Sama), with 633 new hospital admissions reported in the past 24 hours.
Sama chairperson Dr Angelique Coetzee said 90% of the people ending up in ICU were unvaccinated against Covid-19.
“The people in ICU, 9 out of 10 are unvaccinated people lying there with severe disease. They have never been vaccinated and the ones that have been vaccinated have got a lot of comorbidities.
“We do see breakthrough infections… we can’t get away [from that], but predominantly vaccines are still going to protect you,” she told Power987 on Tuesday.
Coetzee further urged the public to get the vaccine.
Last week, Health Minister Dr Joe Phaahla explained fewer people infected with the Omicron variant required oxygen in hospital, especially when compared to the data collected during the previous Covid-19 waves.
Contact tracing and quarantine
Recently, the Ministerial Advisory Committee (MAC) on Covid-19 recommended that contact tracing and quarantining be stopped with immediate effect for contacts of Covid-19 cases.
The MAC said it made the recommendations due to the high proportion of people with immunity to Covid-19 due to either infection or vaccination, and therefore quarantining of contacts should be stopped as it was no longer viable in South Africa’s current social and economic climate.
Commenting on the matter, Coetzee backed the recommendation to reduce the quarantine period to seven days.
“If we keep on saying you need to [go into] quarantine if you have been in contact [with a Covid-19 positive person], we are gong to have a problem with our healthcare workers as well as people in the community or with businesses.
“So you can not every time go quarantine for 10 days. It is not going to help if the disease itself [lasts] about five days to seven days [maximum].
“We can always relook at the quarantine going forward if there is another variant coming in especially like Delta [variant],” she said.
Covid-19 in SA
South African has battling with the Omicron variant, which has driven up Covid-19 infections on a daily basis.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Omicron – which has a large number of mutations – is more transmissible than the Delta strain and reduces vaccine efficacy. However, the new variant causes less severe symptoms.
As of 21 December, South Africa has recorded a total of 3,332,008 million cases of Covid-19, with 15,424 new cases identified in the past 24 hours.
This represents a positivity rate of 27.6%.
A further 35 Covid-19 related deaths were reported, bringing total fatalities to 90,488 to date, the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) confirmed on Tuesday.
The majority of the new cases come from KwaZulu-Natal (26%), followed by Western Cape (22%) and Gauteng (21%).
Additional reporting by Thapelo Lekabe