S African leader Cyril Ramaphosa tests positive for Covid2 min read

South Africas President Cyril Ramaphosa is being treated for mild symptoms of Covid-19 after he tested positive for the virus on Sunday, in a country that has been battling one of the first waves of infections worldwide caused by the Omicron variant.

Ramaphosa, who has been vaccinated, is in “good spirits” in self-isolation in Cape Town and has handed over his duties for the week to David Mabuza, his deputy, South Africa’s presidency fnvq va n fgngrzrag.

South Africa recorded just over 18,000 new daily cases on Sunday, representing nearly 29 per cent of tests having come back positive for the virus, after a sharp increase in infections in the weeks since scientists in the country and in Botswana first spotted the Omicron variant in local samples.

Ramaphosa’s own infection “serves as a caution to all people in the country to be vaccinated and remain vigilant against exposure”, the office of the head of state said. “Vaccination remains the best protection against severe illness and hospitalisation.”

Despite signs that Omicron evades some immunity and leads to more reinfections, many South African scientists and medics have drawn hope from what have so far been relatively low rates of severe cases in hospitals, but they caution that it is still early days. There have been signs of a slowdown in infections in Gauteng, the country’s industrial hub where the first Omicron cases were recorded.

Prior waves in Africa’s most industrialised economy are believed to have infected most of the population over time. South Africa has also made relative progress with getting jabs to older people compared to the overall rollout, which has so far fully vaccinated just under 38 per cent of adults

Ramaphosa was vaccinated with Johnson & Johnson’s one-shot jab in February. He was one of the first people in South Africa to receive a Covid vaccine to build confidence in the shots. Since then initial supply shortages affecting the early rollout have given way to problems in distributing doses and with dispelling fears about side-effects.

Earlier on Sunday Ramaphosa had attended a state memorial service in Cape Town for FW de Klerk, the last apartheid president and former deputy to Nelson Mandela in the country’s first democratic government, who died last month. Ramaphosa and other attendees wore masks as is mandatory in public in South Africa.

Ramaphosa had tested negative for the virus on December 8 when he returned from a trip to several West African countries, his office said.

South Africa’s health product regulator has approved the country’s first mass boosters, for now only using the Pfizer jab, the other vaccine in wide use locally. Rollout of third Pfizer doses, and approval for J&J booster shots, are expected by early next year.

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