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South Africa health minister given booster jab, urges uptake

South Africa's Health minister Joe Phahla   -  
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South Africa

South Africa's health minister on Tuesday received his coronavirus booster vaccine and urged South Africans to come forward for their jabs.

Speaking to reporters in Pretoria, Joe Phahla urged citizens "to ignore those anti-vax protesters" and focus on the "facts ahead of us".

The minister also wished South African President Cyril Ramaphosa "a speedy recovery" after he contracted COVID-19 earlier this week.

The president is self-isolating in Cape Town and is being monitored by the South African Military Health Service, his office said in a statement.

Phahla received his Johnson & Johnson booster shot at the Zuid-Afrikaans Hospital along with the first group of health workers who took part in a vaccination trial between February and May.

Through the Sisonke Trial Vaccination Drive, more than 400,000 health workers received a dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine as part of a study to evaluate its effectiveness in South Africa at a time when there were concerns as to whether vaccines would work well against other variants of the virus.

After a period of low transmission of about 200 new cases per day in early November, South Africa COVID-19 cases began rising dramatically. On Nov. 25, scientists in the southern African nation confirmed the omicron variant, which has more than 50 mutations. 

Meanwhile, a Russian Emergency Ministry plane arrived in the country with humanitarian aid on Tuesday.

A Russian Emergency Ministry plane arrived in South African with humanitarian aid on Tuesday amid the spread of the new omicron coronavirus strain.

Rospotrebnadzor specialists (the Russian Federal Service for Surveillance on Consumer Rights Protection and Human Wellbeing), Russian Ministry of Health specialists, 2,000 COVID tests and a mobile lab had been sent to South Africa, according to the Russian Emergency Ministry's Head of Department of Provision of International Activity, Roman Sergeyev.

Besides the delivery of humanitarian aid, Russian sanitary medics will be conducting research on the omicron strain in South Africa.

"Russian specialists, together with colleagues from the South African Republic, intend to carry out research of specificities of diagnosis and prevention, pathogenesis (the manner of development of a disease) and treatment of the new coronavirus infection provoked by the new omicron strain," the Deputy Head of Rospotrebnadzor Vyacheslav Smolenskiy said.

The travel of Russian specialists comes after Russian President Vladimir Putin's order, which followed a request from the South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, according to the Russian Emergency Ministry.

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