We have been told “not to panic” and that we are “likely safe due to strong immunity”, since the detection of the new and highly infectious coronavirus sub-variant XBB.1.5 on our shores.
It has been reported that one person tested positive for the sub-variant called “kraken”, at the weekend. The World Health Organisation has described it as “the most transmissible sub-variant” found so far.
This week, health minister Joe Phaahla said the government would not impose travel restrictions nor tough restrictions as the country’s high population immunity puts us at lesser risk.
“We believe the fact that the dominant variant of concern in China and in the world remains Omicron, and that the immunity of South Africans from vaccination and natural immunity is still very strong, puts us in a better position and at less risk,” he said.
Epidemiologist and erstwhile head of the Covid-19 ministerial advisory committee Prof Salim Abdool Karim also told eNCA there was no need to worry about “kraken”. He, however, pleaded with the public to be vigilant but not panic.
The wearing of masks is optional for now, and the minister said he had asked all provinces to ramp up testing.
Karim called for general continuation of safety measures of social distancing, wearing of masks, avoiding the indoors and full vaccination.
Yesteday, WHO called on countries to recommend wearing of masks on long distance flights as the variant was spreading rapidly.
We have lived through several mutations of the virus since the first case was confirmed locally in early 2020.
Some variants were more deadly than others, as we saw scores die due to complications related to Covid19. It would be difficult to carry on normally as if nothing is happening.
We agree with Karim, as much as there is no need to be alarmists we must be vigilant. All safety measures were relaxed when Covid-19 restrictions were dropped last year.
So, let’s reintroduce the wearing of masks, social distance, sanitise and ensure you are fully vaccinated and get booster shots if you are due one.
It is safer to err on the side of caution than to be caught off guard by the infective new variant.
The words being used by experts are “likely safe due to high immunity”, as they cannot guarantee our safety.
Let’s play our part by doing what we can to protect ourselves. Stay alert.