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Children aged 10 to 14 have highest rate of positive Covid-19 tests

Vaccine coverage of adults is a 'far cry' from 78% goal, says health minister

Tanya Farber Senior science reporter
The pandemic is far from over, says the World Health Organisation.
Coronovirus The pandemic is far from over, says the World Health Organisation.

The highest Covid-19 positivity rate is now among children between 10 and 14.

This was announced on Friday by health minister Joe Phaahla, who said a 21% positivity rate in this age group is “obviously worrying”.

Phaahla told a heath department media briefing experts initially believed the spike in cases among children could be due to schools opening but “the trend has persisted”.

Also of concern is that more than 10-million cases have been registered globally in the last week, as well as an official death toll in a week of 60,000 with the actual number likely being much higher.

“This shows us that Covid-19 is still ravaging the world,” said Phaahla, adding that Omicron is highly dominant.

On the upside as SA marks the second anniversary of its first confirmed Covid-19 infection, there has been a 20% reduction in new cases from 16,000 a week to just under 13,000.

Deaths have dropped by 28% “but we wish nobody was still dying from Covid-19”, said Phaahla, adding that the official total of fatalities is 99,499 and the recovery rate is 96.6%

Despite these gains, the minister said it is “a major disappointment that the rate of infections has not declined as steadily as we hoped”.

It was hoped the positivity rate would drop below 5% by the end of February, but instead there is a persistent plateau.

“The positivity rate was 7% yesterday but we are hoping to see a more sustained decline,” said Phaahla.

Gauteng accounts for 38% of new cases, the Western Cape 20% and KwaZulu-Natal 15.5%. “All provinces have reported a decline except for KZN which showed no change in risk incidence,” said Phaahla.

SA has around 25,758 active cases, and despite the overall decline there had been a small increase of 1.3% over the last 24 hours.

“It is not declining at the rate we had hoped,” said the minister.

Covid-19 hospital admissions are 2,602, with around 10% in ICU. Admission numbers represent an 8% decline over the last 24 hours, and an 11% decline over the last week. Of those admitted, 72% are unvaccinated.

On the vaccines front, the minister said it is “moving along steadily but not at the pace we hoped”, despite the total exceeding 100,000 for the past four days, the first time this has happened since early December.

The minister said 48% of the adult population had received at least one jab, and that “this is a far cry from the 78% we had hoped for in terms of population immunity”.

He said the over-50s have fared well with over 60% full coverage, but the 18 to 34-year-olds were sitting at only 34% coverage and only 29% fully vaccinated.

“That group is our biggest challenge,” said Phaahla, adding that he was happy young people had mobilised and were encouraging their peers to get the jab under the slogan #KeReady.

He said mandates remained a “difficult topic” and discussions were still under way but the “undisputed fact is that the more we vaccinate the more we can open up the economy.”

He said health and other government departments had been asked to come up with recommendations of how to prevent spread and limit impact once the state of disaster ends. 

The health department “is ready to present to the national coronavirus command council with suggested new regulations”.

He said the World Health Organisation had emphasised that Covid-19 is far from over and that “we must avoid reversing the hard earned gains we have made as we strive to end the pandemic.”


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