Africa’s top public health official John Nkengasong says severe lockdowns are no longer the way to prevent the spread of Covid 19.
At a news conference on Thursday, the director for the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), praised South Africa for the way it responded to its latest infection wave driven by the Omicron variant.
"We are very encouraged with what we saw in South Africa during this period where they look at the data in terms of severity (of infections)," said John Nkengasong.
He added, "The period where we are using severe lockdowns as a tool is over.” He encouraged governments to consider the use of public health and social measures more carefully and in a balanced way as the vaccination increases.
South Africa experienced a steep rise in COVID-19 infections from late November, around the time it alerted the world to Omicron, with new infections peaking in mid-December at an all-time record.
South Africa today can boast of a steady reduction in new cases though the government did not resort to strict measures as it happened during the first and second wave of the virus.
Nkengasong added that he feared that COVID-19 could become endemic on the continent given the slow pace of vaccination a situation many scientists have envisaged.
"Unless ... by the end of this year the continent actually scales up its vaccination to above 70 percent or 80 percent, my worry is that we might ... be into a scenario where COVID becomes endemic," he said.
Experts believe COVID-19 cannot be eliminated and will likely become endemic, meaning it will always be present in the population to some degree, such as the flu or chickenpox.
The latest Africa CDC figures show that less than 10 percent of Africa's population has been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, with many countries initially struggling to access sufficient shots.
There has been a 36 percent average increase in new cases reported in Africa over the last 4 weeks, with an 8 percent average increase in new deaths.