South African president Cyril Ramaphosa has said that omicron is driving the fourth wave of Covid-19 infections in the country and there had been a five-fold increase in daily infection rates over the last week.
Describing the situation as “concerning,” he said omicron is dominating new infections in most provinces and nearly a quarter of all Covid samples have now come back positive compared to two weeks ago.
“As the country heads into a fourth wave of Covid-19 infections, we are experiencing a rate of infections that we have not seen since the pandemic started,” Mr Ramaphosa said in his weekly newsletter.
Mr Ramaphosa said authorities have been “preparing hospitals to admit more patients,” and trying to secure medications for the treatment of coronavirus, while scientists are investigating the impact of the new variant.
“As we enter the fourth wave, and as the country gears up for the festive season, the urgent priority is for more people to get vaccinated. Scientific evidence shows that vaccination is the most effective means of preventing the spread of new infections, and that vaccines reduce severe illness, hospitalisation and death,” he added.
The country is witnessing a sharp rise in cases since it flagged the new variant of the virus with more than 32 mutations in its spike protein. South Africa added 11,125 new daily infections in the past 24 hours, the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) said on Sunday. This has brought the total reported cases in the country to 303,1694.
On Friday, it reported a surge of 16,000 daily infections from roughly 2,300 on Monday.
Stressing on the importance of vaccines, the president said: "South Africa now has sufficient supplies of vaccines, ... vaccination is essential for our economic recovery because as more people are vaccinated more areas of economic activity will be opened up."
Mr Ramaphosa said they are keeping a “close eye on the rates of infection and hospitalisation.”
The president would convene a meeting of the National Coronavirus Command Council to review the state of the pandemic and said “this will enable us to take whatever further measures are needed to keep people safe and healthy.”
Sihle Zikalala, preimier of South Africa’s coastal province KwaZulu-Natal, said the province is officially under fourth wave of coronavirus pandemic as the rate of infection almost doubled from two weeks ago.
“Two weeks ago, the province had a test positivity rate of 0.7% but as of today (Sunday), the test positivity rate has jumped to 12.7%. The province started receiving more than 100 positive cases a day from 26 November,” he said.
These developments “indicate that we have now entered the fourth wave. The rate of hospitalisations has also increased, including patients who require ICU and ventilation. We can confirm that the vast majority of those patients who require treatment in ICU and ventilation are those who have not been vaccinated,” Mr Zikalala said.
Register for free to continue reading
Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism
By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists
Already have an account? sign in
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies