The country that discovered Omicron finds itself isolated. Scientists: premature to predict a new crisis. President Ramaphosa has called on Europe and the US to remove “impulsive” travel bans
AND the escalation of infections in South Africa started from some parties among students of the University of Pretoria. Within a week the positivity rate rose to 9.2%, new cases per day jumped from a few dozen to a few thousand. Well below the peak of the last wave, which had exceeded 25,000 without arousing any international alarm. This time the West reacted were Omicron’s speed of propagation (it took a week to become dominant in the country against 12 on the Delta) and doubts about its potential ability to “pierce” vaccines. Ma Angelique Coetzee, del South African Medical Association, considers “Premature” to predict a health crisis linked to the spread of Omicron. “There are only hypotheses at this stage – he observes -. It may be highly contagious, but so far the cases we see are extremely mild. ”
While scientists were begging for time, many states, from Europe to America, didn’t waste a moment and after the announcement of the new variant they closed to South Africa and neighboring countries. From Pretoria and its surroundings, the voices of those inviting to look at the data and not to make decisions in panic multiply. Yesterday it was to speak President Cyril Ramaphosa who in a TV speech to the nation
he called on Western countries to remove “impulsive” travel bans. Ramaphosa has for now ruled out the use of a new lockdown, and has proposed allowing only vaccinated people to access certain places, without providing further details.
“People are angry, the international community is punishing us for having succeeded in identifying a new variant and having communicated it promptly to the world, it is unfair, if it had been a European country would you have done the same? – he says on the phone Zakes Mda, South African writer and playwright -. These measures end up being an economic boycott of a country already devastated by previous waves. We live on tourism and our biggest trading partner is Great Britain».
At the moment in South Africa there is only the obligation to wear a mask in some indoor spaces. 82% of new infections are concentrated in Gauteng, the province that hosts Pretoria and Johannesburg.
«As many as 90% of new cases in Gauteng are caused by Omicron, ”said Tulio de Oliveira, director of the Center for Epidemic Response & innovation (Ceri), the research center that sequenced and identified the new variant. But the tests also show that Omicron is already present in all nine provinces of South Africa. So far the cases seem to be linked to mild symptoms, hospital admissions have not increased, the daily deaths remain under ten. But the experts urge to take into account the fact that this first round of infections was found mainly among the young people, however, so far more reluctant to get vaccinated in a country where only a third of those over 18 are immunized (24% of the entire population). Now at least three South African universities have announced that they want to introduce compulsory vaccination for students.
“There is widespread distrust among young people, more among whites than among blacks, but there is also a difficulty in accessing the vaccine in many poor areas of the country, in the slums, where perhaps people have to stand in line of hours because there is a shortage of health personnel, “he told al Courier service the infectious disease specialist Tom Ellman, director of Doctors Without Borders Medical Unit in southern Africa, working in the township of Khayelitsha, in Cape Town.
«It’s incredible, two days were enough for Europe to close the doors to South Africa, but over two years of pandemic have not been enough to provide support to the countries most in difficulty
in the management of the virus in order to avoid the proliferation of variants. But closing the borders doesn’t work, the virus finds other ways ”.
November 28, 2021 (change November 28, 2021 | 23:51)
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