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Covid-19: Start thinking of a plan B - expert on whether it is safe to see family over Christmas

While it is unknown whether the new Omicron coronavirus variant will cause more severe disease, South African virologists and epidemiologists have begun advising families to consider additional precautions to keep their vulnerable loved ones safe during the festive season, including avoiding large events and ensuring people are vaccinated. This follows the discovery of the Omicron variety in South Africa on 24 November, which has resulted in an increase in coronavirus infections and hospitalizations in the nation during the last week.Passengers on a plane at OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg. (Guillem SARTORIO / AFP)

As hospital facilities begin to fill up, the government may be forced to reintroduce lockdown measures. Professor Alex Welte of the South African Centre for Epidemiological Modelling and Analysis (SACEMA) told News24 on Thursday that although the danger omicron presented to the elderly remained unknown, it seemed to be far more transmissible than prior variants.

Welte said that a more complete knowledge of the variation should emerge over the next week or two, allowing for a more accurate assessment of the danger of individuals seeing their family during the holiday season.

He continued:

As a result, I'm not going to provide any solid guidance at this point other than to begin considering a plan B. Consider how you may be able to avoid gatherings with family members you do not see on a regular basis. Dr Vicky Baillie, a researcher at the SA Medical Research Council's Vaccines and Infectious Diseases Analytics (VIDA) Research Unit at the University of the Witwatersrand, said it was now critical for anybody visiting elderly family members to get vaccinated.

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"Make an effort to hold parties outdoors where there is enough ventilation and to keep them modest. Thus, you should be quite secure "Baillie said. While Gauteng is presently the epicenter of Covid-19 infections, with infections predicted to peak in mid-December, the fourth wave of illnesses in South Africa is projected to extend until mid-January. Professor Felicity Burt of the University of the Free State's arbovirology department told News24 that immunizations remained the greatest approach to safeguard people and their families over the Christmas season.See the source image

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Covid-19: 'Start thinking of a plan B' - expert on whether it is safe to see family over Christmas | News24

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Alex Welte South Africa South African South African Centre for Epidemiological Welte

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