South Africa’s President tests positive for COVID-19

President Cyril Ramaphosa, who is fully vaccinated, began feeling unwell on Sunday.

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South African President Cyril Ramaphosa tested positive for COVID-19 on Sunday and was receiving treatment for mild symptom; this was revealed by the presidency in a statement.

Ramaphosa, who is already fully vaccinated, began feeling unwell after leaving a state memorial service held for former president FW de Klerk in Cape Town earlier in the day. The statement from the presidency further indicated that the president was in good spirits and being monitored by doctors.

According to the presidency, on a recent visit to four West African states, the president and the entire South African delegation were tested for COVID-19 in all countries.

“The president also tested negative on his return to Johannesburg on 8 December.” said the statement by the presidency.

The statement also quoted Ramaphosa as saying his infection served as a warning of the importance of getting vaccinated and remaining vigilant against exposure.

“Vaccination remains the best protection against severe illness and hospitalisation,” the statement said.

Wishes for President Ramaphosa’s quick recovery have been streaming in.

“I am very sorry to hear you tested positive for Covid-19, my brother Cyril Ramaphosa. I wish you a swift recovery. Stay strong! Together!,” World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus tweeted.

Cases of coronavirus in Africa have been said to nearly double over a week as Omicron, a highly mutated COVID-19 variant spread. Omicron was first detected in South Africa last month, but hospitalizations in the country remains low according to the United Nations.

In a recent weekly online press briefing, the WHO’s Africa branch said the continent had recorded 107,000 extra cases compared to a previous count of 55,000. Omicron “is reaching more countries in Africa”, it said, adding that research was being stepped up to see whether the new variant was specifically behind the sharp rise.

Despite cases of Omicron being found in countries worldwide, it has not yet become fully clear if it causes more severe illness or if, or to what it extent, it can evade vaccines. In a tentative judgement, the EU Medicines Agency said last Thursday that Omicron may cause milder disease, this came after the WHO said earlier in the week that there was some evidence that variant causes less severe disease than Delta, the currently dominant variant.

The WHO also continues to echo its objections to travel restrictions, which it said had been issued by more than 70 countries and were overwhelmingly aimed at southern Africa, even though countries in the region had been “transparent with their data”.

People who came in contact with President Ramaphosa have since been advised to watch for symptoms or get tested. He remains in self-isolation in Cape Town for the time being and has delegated all responsibilities to his Deputy David Mabuza this week.

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