South Africa shows lockdowns ‘no longer a Covid tool’ - top official

·2-min read
Health worker administering a Covid test near Cape Town  (Bloomberg via Getty Images)
Health worker administering a Covid test near Cape Town (Bloomberg via Getty Images)

The era of using severe lockdowns to control coronavirus is over, Africa’s top public health official has said.

Speaking at a news conference on Thursday, John Nkengasong, director of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), said he was “very encouraged” at the pandemic response in South Africa.

He said: “We are very encouraged with what we saw in South Africa during this period where they looked at the data in terms of severity.

"The period where we are using severe lockdowns as a tool is over. We should actually be looking at how we use public health and social measures more carefully and in a balanced way as the vaccination increases."

South Africa experienced a steep rise in Covid-19 infections from late November, mostly driven by the Omicron variant which was first detected there.

Cases peaked at a record high in mid-December, but have since decreased, without the government resorting to strict lockdown measures as in previous waves.

"The number of infections increased very steeply, but also decreased very, very sharply... I think that is a lesson that we all should learn from what the South Africans have done to manage this," Mr Nkengasong added.

Last week the South African government said the country’s fourth wave was likely to have passed.

Officials lifted the country’s midnight to 4am curfew, saying the decision was based on the trajectory of the pandemic, healthcare capacity and vaccination levels.

"All indicators suggest the country may have passed the peak of the fourth wave at a national level," the government said in a statement.

“While the Omicron variant is highly transmissible, there has been lower rates of hospitalisation than in previous waves.”

However, the government kept limits on gatherings of no more than 1,000 people indoors, and no more than 2,000 people outdoors.

Wearing a mask in public spaces also remains compulsory.

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