Ramaphosa meeting coronavirus council today

President Cyril Ramaphosa’s meeting with the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC) has been rescheduled for Saturday, the Presidency said in a statement.

Ramaphosa was previously set to meet the council on Sunday.

These NCCC meetings typically precede a meeting of the President’s Coordinating Council, and adjustments to South Africa’s Covid-19 lockdown restrictions.

The rescheduling of the meeting to a day earlier comes as the World Health Organisation (WHO) gave a Greek name to the new coronavirus variant discovered in South Africa.

WHO named it Omicron and designated it a Variant of Concern.

South African virologists believe that the omicron variant is likely behind the recent surge in Covid-19 infections in Gauteng.

The uptick in cases was traced to university students in the greater Tshwane area, specifically around the Tshwane University of Technology, and Hatfield near the University of Pretoria.

Head of ICU at the Chris Hani Baragwanath hospital, Rudo Mathivha, said in a press conference last night that she has already observed a change in patient demographics following the emergence of the Omicron variant.

Mathivha said they saw people in their 20s to late 30s presenting with moderate to severe coronavirus disease, with several requiring critical care intervention.

Mathivha said 65% of these cases were not vaccinated, and the rest were only “half vaccinated,” as they had received one shot of Pfizer-BioNTech’s Comirnaty vaccine and were still thinking of getting their second.

“The [NCCC] will assess developments in the Covid-19 pandemic, including scientific updates around the newly detected coronavirus variant,” the Presidency said.

“The outcomes of this meeting will give direction as to whether further consultation is required at the level of the President’s Coordinating Council.”

The Presidency also wished home affairs minister Aaron Motsoaledi a speedy recovery after he tested positive for Covid-19.

“Minister Motsoaledi remains in good health and he is currently in self-isolation,” the Presidency stated.

“Government urges all South Africans to vaccinate and to remain disciplined in applying the known safety measures, to ensure a safe and joyful festive season with families and friends.”

South Africa has been on lockdown alert level 1 since the beginning of October, with the least severe restrictions. That followed a sharp drop in Covid-19 case numbers after a protracted third wave of infections.

However, government approved a massive increase in the number of people allowed at gatherings during the political campaigning period ahead of the 1 November elections.

Indoor gatherings were increased from a maximum of 200 to 750 people, while outdoor gatherings increased from a maximum of 500 to 2,000 people.

The move was met with harsh criticism from experts, who said that permitting such large gatherings steered South Africa towards another hard lockdown during December.

Now read: Concerning new Covid-19 variant detected in South Africa — What we know so far

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Ramaphosa meeting coronavirus council today