Director of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), John Nkengasong, said on Thursday that severe lockdowns were not a good method of containing COVID-19, praising South Africa for adopting that approach when dealing with its latest outbreaks caused by Omicron variants.
“We are very encouraged with what we saw in South Africa during this period where they look at the data in terms of severity (of infections),” said Nkengasong at a news conference.
“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.”
COVID-19 infections in South Africa spiked sharply in late November, around the time the region alerted the world about Omicron, and peaked in mid-December at an all-time high.
The number of cases has since fallen, and the government opted not to impose strict restrictions as it had during previous infection waves since the vast majority of Omicron infections appeared to be mild. It even loosened rules prior to New Year’s Eve.
Nkengasong said that, given the slow pace of vaccination, COVID-19 might become endemic in Africa – a prospect many scientists around the world already accept as inevitable.
“Unless … by the end of this year the continent actually scales up its vaccination to above 70% or 80%, my worry is that we might … be into a scenario where COVID becomes endemic,” he said.
Experts believe COVID-19 will not be eliminated and will likely become endemic, where it will remain in the population in some form, like the flu or chickenpox.
A recent Africa CDC report shows that fewer than 10% of Africa’s population has been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, with many countries initially having difficulty accessing shots and later battling to get them into arms.
Over the last 4 weeks, there has been an average increase of 36% in new cases reported in Africa, and an average increase of 8% in new deaths.
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