South Africa President Cyril Ramaphosa is receiving treatment after testing positive for Covid-19, his office says.
In a statement, it says the 69-year-old has mild symptoms and is isolating in Cape Town. South Africa has seen a surge of infections since the new Omicron variant was first detected in November.
Despite Omicron being more transmissible than previous strains, including Delta, risk of severe disease and death is lower, a study has found.
South Africa’s presidency says Mr Ramaphosa tested positive on Sunday, and has already delegated all responsibilities to Deputy President David Mabuza “for the next week”.
The statement says the president started feeling unwell after attending the funeral of former President, FW de Klerk, early on Sunday.
It adds that Mr Ramaphosa is in “good spirits” – but is being monitored by doctors.
The statement provided no further details about Mr Ramaphosa’s infection. People who have recently been in close contact with him have been asked to watch for symptoms or get tested.
Mr Ramaphosa had recently returned from a seven-day tour of Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Ghana and Senegal.
Some members of his delegation had tested positive in Nigeria and returned directly to South Africa, reports the BBC’s Nomsa Maseko in Johannesburg.
The presidency says Mr Ramaphosa, who was vaccinated in February, and members of his team were tested for Covid in all countries they visited.
The president says his own infection should serve as a caution to people to observe public health measures as well as get vaccinated.
Despite pleas from the authorities, fewer than 30 per cent of South Africans are fully vaccinated because of what the country’s health authorities describe as a mass “vaccine hesitancy”.
South African scientists alerted the World Health Organization about the new Omicron variant on November 24.
The United Nations (UN) public health body later classed Omicron as “a variant of concern”, warning that vaccines against it may be less effective.
A number of countries around the world have since introduced travel bans against South Africa and several neighbouring countries – but this has failed to stop the new variant spreading.
A recent study has found people who have been vaccinated or previously been infected were still susceptible to catching the Omicron variant, but were less likely to fall seriously ill or die. -BBC
SOURCE: Nii Otu Dadeban Ankrah