Covid-19: African countries multiply restrictions to curb Omicron

The worst could be spent in South Africa, the first country to have announced the appearance of Omicron, four weeks ago: the curve of daily contaminations, after having reached unparalleled highs since the start of the pandemic under the effect of the new variant, began to reverse, according to data released Wednesday, December 22 by health authorities. The relief is all the greater since this new wave is accompanied by a number of hospitalizations twice as high as during the previous waves, with severe forms also in marked decrease. Less than 7% of patients had to be placed in intensive care units, confirming the hypothesis of a variant that is much more contagious but less “aggressive”.

In assessment of the severity of the Omicron variant in South Africa, published the same day by the National Institute of Communicable Diseases, the researchers attribute its lower impact to the high level of immunity acquired by the population. But they are not able to distinguish between a protection acquired through vaccination – 26% of the population is fully vaccinated – and that conferred by a previous contamination by SARS-CoV-2.

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The situation seems in any case to validate the strategy of the president, Cyril Ramaphosa, who had chosen, at the end of November, not to tighten the restrictions: “By not taking new measures at this stage, we consider the fact that, in previous waves, vaccines were not available and few people were consequently vaccinated”, he explained during a speech on November 28. “Vaccines work, they save lives”, he repeated, encouraging his compatriots to go to health centers to receive their injections.

Make vaccination accessible

While the presence of Omicron has been reported to the World Health Organization (WHO) by twenty-two countries on the continent – eight more in a week – many governments are on the contrary strengthening their arsenal in an attempt to limit this new virus offensive. Tunisia has just introduced a vaccination pass which conditions access to administrations and most other public places. It is also compulsory in private companies under penalty of suspension of the employment contract.

Kenya, which is facing a record number of cases, has also decided to require a vaccination certificate to access administrations or public transport. Even if it means defying complaints from human rights associations judging these decisions to be contrary to the Constitution. In Gabon, on the other hand, the government had to give up making vaccination compulsory after the decision of the Constitutional Court.

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Covid-19: African countries multiply restrictions to curb Omicron