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Be responsible, says health minster Joe Phaahla, as level 1 stays

Health Minister Dr Joe Phaahla has called for responsible behaviour, as the country retains lockdown restrictions at Adjusted Level 1. Picture: Itumeleng English/African News Agency

Health Minister Dr Joe Phaahla has called for responsible behaviour, as the country retains lockdown restrictions at Adjusted Level 1. Picture: Itumeleng English/African News Agency

Published Dec 17, 2021

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CAPE TOWN - Health Minister Dr Joe Phaahla has called for “responsible behaviour” and “stronger compliance” with Covid-19 prevention protocols during the festive season as the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC) retains the lockdown restrictions at Adjusted Level 1.

The National Health Department said it was directed by the Council to closely monitor the rising Covid-19 infections, hospitalisations, mortality and recovery rates which were largely driven by the Omicron variant, contributing to the country’s fourth wave.

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According to scientific studies, this virus was spreading quicker than in previous waves, but the rates of hospitalisations and deaths remained relatively low, officials added.

“We call upon all travellers, especially those who are unvaccinated or partly vaccinated coming from areas declared hotspots, to get vaccinated before hitting the roads to protect their families and friends they will be visiting during this period associated with large social gatherings like parties and weddings, which can be ‘super spreader’ events that carry a huge risk of transmission of the virus,” said Phaahla.

Meanwhile at the latest Covid-19 update for the Western Cape, the provincial head of health, Dr Keith Cloete said that there was no evidence to date that Omicron was less severe than previous variants, in “unvaccinated people with no previous infection”.

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“We are still seeing some very sick patients,” said Cloete.

“We continue to see steep increases in the number of daily new cases with on average 2000 new diagnoses per day. The proportion positive has increased to an average of 38%. (Hospital) admissions are showing signs of an early increase with 65 admissions per day,” he added.

Death however remained low, with less than one death per day.

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He said there was clear evidence that re-infections may occur with Omicron.

“To date, vaccines appear to still provide strong protection against severe disease from Omicron and remain our best defence. As a province and a country, we have not achieved the targets we have set for mid-December, despite having the capacity and the vaccine supplies,” said Cloete.

“We are in the fourth wave in the Western Cape, with rapidly increasing cases, driven by the Omicron variant. We urge everyone to vaccinate, wear a mask, avoid enclosed spaces and gather outdoors, to contain the spread over the coming days and weeks.”

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As at 1pm yesterday there were 28 174 active cases of Covid-19 in the province, bringing the total number infections to date to 555 218.

Since December 14, the total number of individuals who are 18 years and older and are fully vaccinated was 2 267 389, around 46% of over 18s.

Cape Times

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