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South Africa’s new confirmed cases soared sixfold in one week… Concerns about strengthening lockdown

The upward curve is steeper than the previous three infection surges.

Authorities focus on encouraging compliance with quarantine rules and vaccinations amid concerns about economic shock

South Africa’s 7-day average of new confirmed cases, week-by-week increase

[남아공 국립전염병연구소 자료 캡처. 재판매 및 DB 금지]

(Johannesburg = Yonhap News) Correspondent Kim Seong-jin = As Omicron, a new mutation of the novel coronavirus infection (COVID-19), spread terribly, the number of new confirmed cases in South Africa soared sixfold in one week.

Meanwhile, the South African government seems to be in a dilemma of whether to strengthen the lockdown level, which is set to level 1, the lowest among all 5 levels.

South Africa’s health authorities announced on the 3rd (local time) that there were 16,55 new cases of COVID-19, an increase in one day.

This is an increase of nearly 40% from the previous day (11,535 people). Compared to the 25th of last month (2,465 people), right after South Africa first notified the international community of the existence of the omicron mutation, the number of new confirmed cases per day increased by 6.5 times in about a week.

Authorities estimate that 75-80% of new confirmed cases are omicron mutation infections.

South Africa’s Health Minister Joe Pahla said in an online press briefing on the same day that the fourth wave of infections was in progress, and that the increase in the number of confirmed cases was much steeper than the first and third wave of last year and between June and July of this year.

Although he did not completely rule out ways to increase the lockdown level further, he showed that he was still keeping his distance.

Currently, South Africa is in the lowest stage of the five lockdown stages. The first stage is practically equivalent to ‘with Corona’ (step-by-step recovery of daily life), except for some restrictions such as curfew after midnight.

Health Minister Pahla said, “We need to monitor the situation for a week and see what measures will be taken,” he said.

He also urged them to observe the use of masks at this stage and avoid large gatherings such as year-end parties and birthday parties.

The South African government is putting a drive back on vaccination instead.

The local news channel eNCA reported that the vaccination center, which had been busy for a while, was crowded with people, and the Minister of Basic Education would personally visit the vaccination center to encourage vaccination.

The South African government is encouraging vaccination while providing convenience, such as operating a free public bus to the vaccination center, in consideration of the rapid increase in the number of new infections, mainly among young unvaccinated people in the early stages of the Omicron mutation epidemic.

As of the 3rd, 147,000 people were vaccinated per day, which is still less than half of the government’s initial target of 300,000, but the number of people vaccinated is gradually increasing. The vaccination completion rate for South African adults is currently 37%.

Vaccination trends by 9 provinces in South Africa
Vaccination trends by 9 provinces in South Africa

[남아공 국립전염병연구소 자료 캡처. 재판매 및 DB 금지]

The reason the South African government is focusing on compliance with quarantine rules and vaccinations rather than strengthening the lockdown is because the internal and external situation is not so good.

Immediately after reporting the appearance of the Omicron mutation to the international community, most of the major countries locked their doors to South Africa with travel restrictions, etc. In South Africa, where tourism, centered on the resort town of Cape Town, accounts for a significant portion of the economy, year-end specials have virtually disappeared.

In the meantime, if the lockdown stage is raised, the economic damage will inevitably be severe. South Africa’s unemployment rate reached a record high of 34.9% in the third quarter.

South African economist Mike Schusler said in an interview with the media, “We should not push for a stronger blockade.” warned that

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