President Cyril Ramaphosa says South Africa will remain on level one of the COVID-19 lockdown, but urged citizens to please vaccinate.

The President addressed the nation a short while ago, following a meeting with the National Coronavirus Command Council, due to growing concerns after the discovery of a new COVID-19 variant, Omicron, in the country.

The President paid tribute to South African scientists, saying they are world-renowned and highly respected.

He says, “There are a number of things that we already know about the variant as a result of the work
our scientists have been doing on genome surveillance. Firstly, we now know that Omicron has far more mutations than any previous variant. Secondly, we know that Omicron is readily detected by the current COVID-19 tests. This means that people who are showing COVID-19 symptoms or have been in contact with someone who is COVID-19 positive should still get tested. Thirdly, we know that this variant is different from other circulating variants and that it is not directly related to the Delta or Beta variants. Fourthly, we know that the variant is responsible for most of the infections found in Gauteng over the last two weeks and is now showing up in all other provinces.”

Presidents full address:

President Ramaphosa also reiterated his call for South Africans to get vaccinated.

He says, “We know enough about the variant to know what we need to do to reduce transmission and to protect ourselves against severe disease and death. The first, the most powerful, tool we have is vaccination. Since the first COVID-19 vaccines became available late last year, we have seen how vaccines have dramatically reduced severe illness, hospitalisation and death in South Africa and across the world. Vaccines do work. Vaccines are saving lives.”

Travel bans

The President also said that government is deeply disappointed that several countries have issued a travel ban on South Africa after the discovery of the Omicron variant.

He says that is a clear and completely unjustified departure from the commitment that many of these
countries made at the meeting of G20 countries in Rome last month.

He adds, “They pledged at that meeting to restart international travel in a safe and orderly manner, consistent with the work of relevant international organisations such as the World Health Organisation, the International Civil Aviation Organization, the International Maritime Organization and the OECD. The G20 Rome Declaration noted the plight of the tourism sector in developing countries, and made a commitment to support a “rapid, resilient, inclusive and sustainable recovery of the tourism sector”.

Video: President’s address: