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Ramaphosa calls for calm amid rising Covid-19 infections

Amanda Khoza Presidency reporter
President Cyril Ramaphosa is currently on a tour of West Africa.
President Cyril Ramaphosa is currently on a tour of West Africa.
Image: GCIS

Do not panic. This was the call made by President Cyril Ramaphosa on Saturday night in the face of increasing Covid-19 cases in South Africa.

“I have been in touch with the minister of health about the virus and he said yes, it [the Omicron variant] is more transmissible, it seems, than others. However, he says our hospital admissions are not increasing at an alarming rate, meaning that whilst people may be testing positive, they are not in large numbers being admitted into hospitals.

“It is for that reason that I did say that we should not panic because it is possible, and tests and research still needs to be done and although Omicron spreads, it does not seem to be resulting in greater number of admissions in hospitals and we should take heart in that,” said Ramaphosa.

The president was speaking during a press briefing shortly after reaching bilateral agreements and signing memoranda of understanding with his Ghanaian counterpart President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo at Jubilee House in Accra.

Both presidents talked tough on the bans imposed against African countries, saying they were “discriminatory.”

Ramaphosa said the new variant is going to be found all over the world and “we needed to learn to live with the virus. This virus continues to mutate, it started off as a first variant, went to second and third and going into the fourth and we might have right up to the 10th because it is a variant and it mutates.”

Ramaphosa said all people could rely on were the tools that were in place.

“I could not agree more with president [Akufo-Addo] where he says we have got to get the vaccination levels up and this is where the developed economies have been so greedy as to have hoarded vaccines and not made vaccines available.

“We have had to scout around to find vaccines all over and therefore we say vaccination is the biggest defence we have got.”

Ramaphosa said he had placed a number of calls to leaders of countries that have imposed travel bans against South Africa, asking them to review their decisions because the virus had subsequently spread all over the world.

“Many more countries are experiencing incidences of Omicron and it’s no longer located just in Southern Africa. I am basically saying that those countries should adhere to what was agreed upon in the G20, which was to open up travel and the tourism industry so that our economies can return to normal.”

Instead of imposing travel bans, Ramaphosa again encouraged the use of non-pharmaceutical measures.

“As people travel around the world, they should be tested — and if they are found to have tested positive, then they should quarantine. This has been accepted practice.”

Ramaphosa is hoping there will be a positive response to his request to have the bans lifted immediately because “the bans which have been imposed on South Africa and countries in Southern Africa is completely unscientific and completely unacceptable”.

He thanked the countries that he visited in West Africa — Nigeria, Ivory Coast and soon Senegal — for pledging their solidarity with South Africa.

Akufo-Addo said: “It is pretty obvious what is going on. This particular virus has been found all over the world, so to say that African countries must adhere to these particular measures demonstrates the unfairness global nations are deciding on.”

People need to continue adhering to Covid-19 measures and intensify vaccination programmes, he said.

“We have to continue, we cannot let our guards down, we cannot let up and we have to make people understand that the virus is still here, has not gone away.

“Yes, our numbers have declined significantly, but nevertheless it has not gone away and the fact that Ghana has announced that the virus is also here tells us that the fight against this virus is ongoing. We are not yet out of the woods.”

Akufo-Addo said Africa was not being treated on a fair basis.

“People are acting in an arbitrary manner. There is nothing much that we can do about it except to protect ourselves.”

TimesLIVE


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