Thursday, 02 December 2021

Pretoria: Health Minister, Dr Joe Phaahla, says South Africa is working tirelessly to tackle both HIV and the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19.

“The two struggles are now twins and we’re working to defeat both of them,” he said on Wednesday during the World Aids Day commemoration event in Limpopo.

“HIV and SARS-CoV-2 are both viruses. They only differ in terms of the speed with which they move. HIV moves very slow and doesn’t let you know quickly that it is in your blood.”

This is contrary to SARS-CoV-2 that he described as “quick” and “very acute”.

“You get it today, within three to four days you’re down. If you’re not lucky, within two weeks, you’re already down six feet. So this is the difference, but it’s one struggle.”

However, he said both of these viruses are preventable.

“There are methods of what we call the personal health safety measures which we need to do in terms of fighting these two viruses. I know we have to sanitise these days, but I hope you still remember the ABC [approach].”

The Minister has urged the public to adopt the ABC strategy – abstain, be faithful and condomise to bring the HIV and AIDS epidemic under control.

“And for us as men, we must circumcise,” he added.

Shifting his focus on COVID-19, he called on the attendees to wear masks, social distance, sanitise and wash hands, and gather in ventilated spaces.

“Unfortunately, on the HIV side, our scientists have been working hard but they haven’t been able to find the vaccine. However, with COVID-19, we are lucky that within a few months, scientists were able to find various vaccines, which we can use to protect ourselves against this disease.”

He described the vaccines as an important tool for the country to fight the spread of the Coronavirus.

“We need to work together to end inequalities and also AIDS, TB and COVID-19.”

SA can’t survive travel bans

Health Minister, Dr Joe Phaahla, says he has asked his United States counterpart to reverse the travel ban imposed following the detection of the new Omicron variant.

“When US Secretary for Health asked, ‘what can we do?’ It was very simple, I said: ‘just lift the travel ban’,” he said on Wednesday.

“All we’re asking for is for our people to be able to make a living, we are asking for a situation where our traders, our tourism businesses and in many other areas, can survive.”

The appeal comes after the United Kingdom, all 27 European Union states and the US imposed travel bans after South Africa revealed the new “heavily mutated” Coronavirus variant Omicron last week.

The Minister raised concerns that businesses may collapse if the travel restrictions are not reversed soon.

“It means that we’re not going to be able to even buy the vaccines and the treatment we need. People are not going to be able to buy food.”

According to Phaahla, this is the same message he sent to his UK counterpart.

“Simply lift the travel ban. We’re saying to you that our country cannot survive, maybe weeks, maybe days of this travel ban.”

Meanwhile, he expressed his appreciation for the World Health Organisation that has pledged its support to the country.

“Please don’t punish us for doing our civil duty, not only to our people but also to the people of the world,” he appealed.

In addition, the country has received messages of support from other governments, including those that slapped the country with travel bans.

Fourth wave

He reiterated that the country was not caught off guard by the resurgence, which is believed to be sparked by Omicron.

“We said many times, many months ago that as we exited the third wave of COVID-19 that there was going to be the fourth wave. We knew that as a matter of experience that this virus is going to be with us for some time and that there’s going to be variants.”

He also warned the number of infections is still going to go up.

“We’ve been here before. Let us not be fearful and continue to do what we know best. This virus might have too many horns, more than the other ones. But it’s not going to defeat us as long as we work together.”

He also urged people to take the vaccine, especially men and pregnant women.