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Govt monitors Covid variant closely

2023-01-10  Paheja Siririka

Govt monitors Covid variant closely

Health minister Dr Kalumbi Shangula says the Covid-19 XBB.1.5 variant is not new but it is a sub-variant of the Omicron, adding the two cases reported in the country have recovered.

He told New Era yesterday that there are no new developments on the variant in the country but encouraged Namibians to get vaccinated. 

“The patients, who presented flu-like symptoms, have long recovered and there are no new developments on the variant,” said Shangula.

He added: “The vaccination has been very slow, especially during the festive season, and it seems everything during the festive season always comes to a standstill. We are not surprised about the slow uptake of the vaccines, and we are highly encouraging people to still get vaccinated”.

Namibia lifted all Covid-19 measures in August last year. While government released statistics and figures daily, they resorted to reporting monthly.

By 1 to 31 October 2022, 544 455 people, aged 18 years and older, have received one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine, representing 37% of the target population (1 471 973).

 A total of 207 652 have received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, while 274 150 adults have received two doses of other vaccine types. Hence, 481 802 adults have completed their vaccination, translating to 32.7% of the target population.

About 29 558 children, aged 12 to 17 years, have received one dose of the Pfizer vaccine, representing 9.6 % of the target population (307 298). 

Of these, 15 254 are fully vaccinated. Hence, the cumulative number of people vaccinated with the first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine for both adults and children is 574 013, of which 497 056 are fully vaccinated, translating to 27.9% of the total target population (1 779 271).

The South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) reports that the Eastern Cape department of health has called on the public to be vigilant and take all necessary steps to prevent the spread of the Covid-19 XBB.1.5 variant.

“There have been four confirmed Covid-19 cases at Motherwell NU2 clinic for the month of January 2023. This number consists of three staff members and one patient, none of them showing any life-threatening symptoms, with some not experiencing any symptoms at all. Decontamination and debriefing of the staff were conducted on Friday for an hour after which operations resumed immediately,” said Eastern Cape department of health spokesperson Yonela Dekeda.

The department said they are in discussions with scientists to gather more information about the variant, including its severity and transmissibility.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has stressed the importance of monitoring and the timely publication of data to help China and the global community to formulate accurate risk assessments and inform effective responses.

Director general of WHO, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said: “One of the Omicron sub-variants originally detected in October 2022 is the XBB.1.5, a recombinant of two BA2 two sub lineages. It’s on the increase in Europe and the US, and has now been identified in more than 25 countries, who are following closely and assessing the risk of this variant, and will report accordingly”.

WHO has also asked for regular sharing of specific and real-time data on the epidemiological situation, including more genetic sequencing data, data on disease impact, including hospitalisations, intensive care unit (ICU) admissions and deaths – and data on vaccinations delivered and vaccination status, especially in vulnerable people and those over 60 years old. 

The organisation further reiterated the importance of vaccination and boosters to protect against severe disease and death for people at higher risk.

Almost 90% of people in China’s third most populous province have now been infected with Covid-19, a top official said yesterday as the country battles an unprecedented surge in cases.

The world’s most populous country is battling a surge in cases, following its decision last month to lift years of lockdowns, quarantines and mass testing that had hammered its economy and sparked rare nationwide protests.

Official data showed last week that about 120 000 people have been infected and 30 died since China relaxed Covid-19 curbs in early December. 

However, with Beijing last month narrowing the definition of Covid-19 deaths and mass testing no longer compulsory, its data is no longer reflective of the true scale of the outbreak.

A high-level meeting took place on 30 December between WHO and China about the surge in Covid-19 cases to seek further information on the situation, and to offer WHO’s expertise and further support.

WHO called on China to strengthen viral sequencing, clinical management and impact assessment, further expressing willingness to provide support in these areas, as well as on risk communications on vaccination to counter hesitancy. 

Chinese scientists are invited to engage more closely in WHO-led Covid-19 expert networks, including the Covid-19 clinical management network. 

WHO has invited Chinese scientists to present detailed data on viral sequencing at a meeting of the Technical Advisory Group on SARS-CoV-2 Virus Evolution on 3 January.


2023-01-10  Paheja Siririka

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