Africa CDC says severe lockdowns no longer tool to contain COVID-19

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JOHANNESBURG, Jan 6 (Reuters) – Africa’s top public health official said on Thursday that he was encouraged by the way that South Africa had handled its latest COVID-19 wave driven by the Omicron variant, adding that severe lockdowns were no longer the best way to contain the virus.

“We are very encouraged with what we saw in South Africa during this period where they look at the data in terms of severity,” John Nkengasong, director of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), told 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.”

South Africa experienced a steep rise in COVID-19 infections from late November, around the time it alerted the world to Omicron, with new infections peaking in mid-December at an all-time record.

But new cases have since fallen back, and the government did not resort to strict restrictions like during previous infection 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,” Nkengasong added.

(Reporting by Alexander Winning; Editing by Alison Williams and Nick Macfie)

Photo – A woman walks along a flooded road amidst a storm in the Masiphumelele informal settlement in Cape Town, South Africa. EPA-EFE/NIC BOTHMA

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