Government has taken no decision on restrictions: Minister of Health
Health Minister Joe Phaahla said the government had made no decision on tighter lockdown restrictions following the emergence of the Omicron Covid variant this week.
In a Sunday briefing (November 28), the minister said the government is not taking the issue lightly and that it knows the impact that tighter restrictions can have on the country and the economy.
“We haven’t made any decisions on the restrictions; these are issues that are not taken very lightly because we know the impact, ”Phaahla said. “These are issues that are addressed through committees and consultations.”
“If there are to be (restrictions), it will come after very extensive consultations with stakeholders,” he said. “As such, I can assure the nation that such decisions have not been made.”
The minister’s comments come after the National Coronavirus Command Council meeting was moved from Sunday to Saturday, fueling speculation that stricter lockdown restrictions are imminent.
The meeting was brought forward due to global panic over the new Omicron Covid variant which was sequenced in southern Africa this week.
South African scientists and the Ministry of Health presented data on the variant on Thursday, warning that, although still in the early stages of sequencing, the variant may prove to be more transmissible and resistant to vaccines.
Despite the fact that there was no evidence yet to show that this is the case – with weeks of research still needed to assess the full impact of the more than 30 mutations of the variant – many countries immediate travel ban and suspension of flights to and from South Africa and its neighboring countries.
The variant has since been detected in several of these countries, with some unrelated to southern Africa. The harsh response to southern Africa has been criticized as being unwarranted, unnecessary and could be seen as punishing the region for its transparency in its research.
Local businesses and organizations have urged the government to seek alternative methods to control the spread of the new variant in addition to imposing economically damaging foreclosure restrictions.
Many are calling for mandatory vaccination policies to force the unvaccinated population to protect themselves and others, instead of locking down the nation or restricting travel before the busy holiday season.
Some academics have warned that it would be difficult to convince South Africans to abide by the lockdown rules when every political party, including the ruling ANC, blatantly ignored these protocols during the election campaign.
Business groups including the Black Business Council and Business For South Africa have said it would be better to restrict access to private sites or adopt vaccine mandates than to give companies the “death sentence. “a harder lock.
Only about a third of South African adults are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus.
Read: Warning regarding new lockdown restrictions for South Africa