• January 26, 2023

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South Africa’s health ministry on Tuesday said there is no need to impose any new COVID-19 restrictions either at home or for arrivals over an infection surge in China and the detection of the first case of Omicron subvariant.

Speaking to reporters, the country’s health minister Joe Phaahla said the new strain from China will not harm South Africans given the strong immunity among the people.

The minister further confirmed that South Africa has seen more Covid infections and deaths in recent weeks.

However, the country will increase Covid testing and reinvigorate its vaccination campaign in light of rising global infections, he said at a media briefing.

South Africa, which detected the first case of Omicron in late 2021, has recorded more than four million cases of the coronavirus and more than 102,500 deaths. Some 48% of the eligible population is vaccinated.

XBB.1.5, the grandson of the Omicron family, is the “most transmissible sub-variant detected to date”, the World Health Organisation (WHO) warned this week.

The sub-variant was detected on Friday in the southern African country in a sample taken in late December, according to de Oliveira, but no “increase in cases, hospitalisations or deaths” has been seen at this stage.

XBB.1.5 is present in some 30 countries, notably in Europe and the United States, where it is becoming dominant. Its characteristics are not yet precisely known. But according to the first data, a booster dose with a bivalent vaccine would produce neutralising antibodies, according to the WHO.

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