Health Minister says the government will not impose internal restrictions due to a newCOVID-19 sub-variant

Health Minister says the government will not impose internal restrictions due to a newCOVID-19 sub-variant

Dr. Joe Phaahla, Minister of Health, has said that the government would not impose any internal restrictions as a result of the discovery of a new sub-variant of the COVID-19 virus.

The XBB.1.5 subvariant was discovered in South Africa in December and was reported earlier this month.

According to Phaahla, XBB.1.5 is a sub-variant of the worldwide prevalent Omicron type that causes less severe illness.

“We have consulted our Ministerial Advisory Committees and also the World Health Organisation … and in both cases the advice that we have received is that there is no need to impose any travel restrictions on any country, including the People’s Republic of China and that we also do not need to re-impose any restrictions internally in our country.

“The XBB.1.5 has been detected more in the [United States of America] where its prevalence is rated at about 6.8% of the circulating sub-variants. While the various sub-variants have shown different levels of transmissibility, there has thus been no marked change in severity of illness,” he said.

The Minister went on to say that immunisations have placed South Africa in a good position to combat COVID-19 infections, and that there have been no substantial effects on the healthcare system since the variant’s discovery.

“We believe that the fact that the dominant variant of concern in China and in the world remains the Omicron and that the immunity of South Africans from vaccination and natural immunity is still very strong, puts us in a better position and in less risk.

“[That] is why we have not seen up to this stage any major changes in our epidemiology in terms of the rates of infections, also in terms of admissions to hospitals and even the rate of fatalities from the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said.

Although no substantial restrictions will be enforced, the Minister said that the Health Ministry will take preventative steps such as:

  • Promoting increased testing of individuals with recognised COVID-19 symptoms
  • Encouraging persons with symptoms to visit health-care facilities
  • Advising medical professionals to request antigen or PCR testing on symptomatic patients
  • For genomic sequencing, the National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD) must receive all positive COVID-19 tests.
  • Increasing observation and testing of waste water by the NICD, particularly that of aircrafts arriving from nations with a high COVID-19 load
  • Enhancing the nationwide COVID-19 vaccination drive

The measures were proposed to and approved by the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC), which is led by President Cyril Ramaphosa.

Phaahla emphasised that taking the COVID-19 vaccine remained the best approach to develop protection.

“Our vaccination ministerial advisory committee will soon make adjustments to qualification for booster [vaccination] per age and also the timelines between the boosters. The remake is looking at including in the boosters not only the people over 50 but also all adults over 18 years of age,” he said.

“Vaccination remains the bedrock to protect against any variant or sub-variant of COVID-19 and not travel restrictions or any new restrictions at this stage,” he said.

»Health Minister says the government will not impose internal restrictions due to a newCOVID-19 sub-variant«

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