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Tuesday, 21 December 2021

General Manager for Medical Advisory and Health Policy at the AfroCentric Group Dr Samukeliso Dube prepares South Africa for a COVID-safe festive season.

Johannesburg, 21 December 2021 — Many South Africans are already enjoying the festive season, which has been made clearly evident by photos of Durban beaches already packed with holidaymakers. Although we should continue to enjoy the festive season, General Manager for Medical Advisory and Health Policy at the AfroCentric Group Dr Samukeliso Dube says: "We cannot lose sight of the fact that we are in a fourth wave driven by a variant that is highly transmissible."

"It’s great to see people unwinding from what has been a challenging year and having a good time on the beach, but it is equally distressing to see how many of them are not wearing masks or maintaining social or physical distancing. I know we all want to go on holiday, but we need to remember the rules, as they are there to protect us and our country," says Dr Dube.

With rising cases in key holidaying destinations like KwaZulu-Natal and the Western Cape, Dr Dube advises the public to remain cautious, regardless of one’s vaccination status. Dr Dube provides key advice for travellers this festive season to help them stay safe and festive in the wake of the Omicron variant and the fourth wave.

Know where your nearest hospitals are
No matter where you are travelling, it is important that you know where the nearest hospital or clinic is and if possible keep open lines with their general practitioners. "Remember that severe cases of COVID-19 can escalate quicker than you think, and you will likely need to seek the nearest hospital to stay alive." In addition, we encourage South Africans to get vaccinated ahead of the holiday break. Vaccines reduce the risk of hospitalisations and death.

Why are the unvaccinated more at risk? With nearly 4-million lives under its management, AfroCentric’s COVID-19 vaccine claims statistics (which are available through its subsidiary, Medscheme, one of SA’s largest medical administrators) reveal the vaccines’ effectiveness. For those hospitalised in a general ward, the unvaccinated account for 87.9% of patients. For those hospitalised in a high-care or Intensive Care Unit for COVID-19, the unvaccinated account for 83.5% of patients.

"This data is similar to what we see elsewehere, and we cannot ignore the data. It is clear that vaccines are doing what they were meant to do. You are going to be a lot safer on holiday, where you may be far from the nearest hospital, if you are vaccinated," says Dr Dube.

Remember the precautions
Although these precautions and regulations have rehashed numerous times, to all South Africans, Dr Dube says people evidently have COVID fatigue as there are people walking around without masks and not following social distancing protocols.

"It is critical that we all remember that the Omicron variant is proving highly transmissible and is likely to spread further and faster than any of the previous variants. There is no better time to sharpen our intentions of following the protocols than now.
That means:

  • Wear your mask whenever you are in public
  • Sanitise at every point
  • Maintain social distancing
  • Avoid mass gatherings, especially those taking place indoors

"The most important precaution, of course, is to get vaccinated," says Dr Dube.

Get vaccinated, get a booster, get ready to save South Africa
For Dr Dube, the onset of the Omicron variant should provide extra motivation for South Africans to overcome their hesitancy. There are already indications that it might overtake delta as the dominant variant, she explains: "It is also said to be 50% more infectious than the delta variant, however, early indications are that Omicron admissions are less severe than previous waves four weeks in to the wave, and this comes as good news."

The doctor urges the South African public to not listen to the voices of those who are hesitant to get vaccinated, saying we can all do our part to intelligently address the ignorance that is keeping us from herd immunity.

"I urge us all to combat the flow of misinformation. I urge all South Africans, especially those who are in a position of authority and knowledge, to help spread the right information. I also urge parents and caregivers to vaccinate and ensure they adhere to all safety protocols this festive season. It’s the least our children deserve."

For the sake of the festive season, the more people are vaccinated means less pressure on our healthcare system as they seek to deal with other festive-season related traumas. "We all need to be responsible and not only take care of ourselves and our families but our country, too. That means doing the right thing and getting vaccinated. If you are already vaccinated, get the booster shot. This is our best way forward to getting our lives and our economy back."

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