South Africa’s president back to work after COVID isolation

World

A child is surrounded by sponge cushions as she plays at a Johannesburg shopping mall Friday, Dec. 17, 2021. (AP Photo/Denis Farrell)

JOHANNESBURG (AP) —

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has returned to work following a week of isolation after testing positive for COVID-19, his office announced Monday.

Ramaphosa had mild symptoms and was treated at his official residence in Cape Town by South Africa’s military health service as the country battled a wave of the virus dominated by the highly transmissible omicron variant.

“President Ramaphosa repeats his call for everyone in the country to stay safe by being vaccinated, wearing face masks, washing or sanitizing hands frequently, maintaining a social distance and avoiding gatherings,” his office said in a statement.

Ramaphosa is set to chair the last cabinet meeting of the year on Wednesday this week, the statement said.

In the last 24 hours, South Africa has reported 15,465 new COVID-19 infections and three deaths. South Africa’s 7-day rolling average of daily new cases has risen over the past two weeks from 16.9 new cases per 100,000 people on Dec. 5 to 33.8 new cases per 100,000 people on Dec. 19.

Although South Africa’s new confirmed cases of COVID-19 have surged since mid-November, the numbers of those hospitalized and those who have died have not followed the same upward trajectory.

As the country approaches the holiday season, during which many industries close and there is widespread travel to visit families, the vaccination drive appears to have stalled.

South Africa has administered over 27 million vaccine doses so that more than 38% of its adult population has been vaccinated, according to official statistics.The country has an estimated 19 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Johnson & Johnson vaccines, but the pace of vaccinations has dropped drastically from an average of about 120,000 per day in November to less than 20,000 per day last week. Just over 5,000 jabs were given in the last 24 hours. South Africa’s target of vaccinating 70% of its population by the end of the year appears unattainable.

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