JOHANNESBURG: South Africa will not reduce the 10-day isolation period for health workers infected with Omicron to make medical personnel available to deal with the growing number of hospitalized patients, the Minister of Health has said. Health Joe Phaahla.
“It’s a matter of concern to us. We’re comfortable now that the numbers haven’t risen as sharply as we feared at the start (of the current fourth wave),” Phaahla told reporters on Friday. .
“Most (health workers) are vaccinated and even if they have symptoms they last very few days but they self-isolate for 10 days,” he said, adding “You can’t really say they should reduce the period of isolation”.
“You just have to find ways to manage the turnover of staff because otherwise there will be a risk because even if you are infected, even if you have no symptoms or if you have mild symptoms and if you return quickly to a workplace, you’re going to be a risk to patients and also to your colleagues,” Phaahla said.
Reacting to questions about an impending higher lockdown due to the mass migration of people during the holiday season which begins next week, Phaahla said there were no immediate plans for it .
“The National Corona Virus Command Council will meet next week, either Tuesday or Wednesday, and will make recommendations. We will also be dependent on recommendations from our Ministerial Advisory Committee (MAC), so we are not in a position at this stage to what kind of level one changes (there could be),” the minister said.
South Africa is currently at the lowest Tier 1 of its five-tier lockdown strategies.
Despite skyrocketing infection rates, President Cyril Ramaphosa said a fortnight ago that current restrictions would remain in place to prevent further irreparable damage to the economy.
He also said that a large number of vaccinated people would reduce the severity of Omicron infections.
“We will not only look at the numbers, but also the impact on healthcare facilities and all these risks, as well as on the economy and social activities of society. We will also get feedback from MAC on social behavior,” Phaahla said.
The social behavior referred to is many people’s continued disregard for social distancing measures such as avoiding large gatherings and wearing masks, as well as a strong anti-vaccine lobby by people citing personal or religious objections.
Ramaphosa tasked a team led by Vice President David Mabuza to investigate the need to implement mandatory vaccines, but this has already sparked a clash between unions and employers who have imposed ultimatums on their staff to comply. vaccinate or face disciplinary action.
Phaahla confirmed during the briefing that the Omicron variant has now exceeded any breeding rate of previous variants since the start of the pandemic nearly two years ago.
“The virus reproduction number (Omicron), which shows how many people can be infected by one person, is currently 2.5, which is higher than it was at any time before. the pandemic. So whether we were talking about the Alpha, Beta or Delta, none of them had even reached close to two in terms of reproductive rate,” Phaahla said.
Ghana has announced that all adult visitors must provide proof of vaccination to enter the country, the government announced on Friday, in a bid to prevent an escalation in coronavirus cases over the festive period.
Ghanaian citizens and residents abroad have two weeks to cross the border unvaccinated after the order comes into effect on December 12.
“The current increase in cases along with the detection of the omicron variant among international arrivals and the expected increase during the festive season call for urgent actions to prevent a major increase in COVID-19 cases in Ghana,” said the Ghana Health Service in a statement. declaration.
Since November, Ghana has recorded an average of 20 positive cases at the airport per day.
Of the 34 cases of the omicron variant detected in Ghana so far, 75% of them were unvaccinated, according to the statement.
In the past two weeks, cases from the airport account for around 60% of the total new cases recorded in the country.
A person must have taken the recommended full doses of vaccines approved and registered by the Food and Drugs Authority of Ghana, which includes one dose of Johnson & Johnson and two doses of AstraZeneca, Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna or Sputnik V.
Other requirements on arrival include a negative PCR test taken at least 72 hours before travel and an antigen test on arrival remain unchanged.