With the new variant, Omicron, showing exponential growth and high transmissibility, there are certain things you can do to keep yourself and loved ones safe during this period, the World Health Organisation's (WHO) Chief Scientist Dr Soumya Swaminathan said.
The first line of defence is vaccination. Although vaccines appear to be less effective in preventing infection with Omicron, they still offer significant protection against a severe form of the disease that may necessitate hospitalization. So if you have not gotten vaccinated, this is a great time to do so. And if you're immunocompromised or at-risk, getting boosted can help boost your immunity to the virus.
While vaccination is crucial to combatting the pandemic, it is not enough. The last two years have been tough and although we are tired of the pandemic, the virus is not tired of us. While it is critical for our mental and physical health to see loved ones, the gathering of large crowds is where the virus can be particularly prolific. We are starting to see examples from aeroplanes, nightclubs and even hotel quarantine where the Omicron is spreading more efficiently than ever.
Viral transmission is further optimized in indoor settings where windows and doors are closed, ventilation is poor and where people are not wearing masks. When cases are spiking, there is always the option to work and connect on digital platforms, but I understand the fatigue with using video sharing platforms for far too many aspects of our lives. We often need that physical connection for all aspects of our health.
Festive seasons are difficult to navigate during a pandemic but through vaccination and public health measures, there are ways to minimize risk and still spend time with loved ones. As of December 24, 2021, confirmed cases of Covid-19 from 55 African countries reached 9,361,672 while over 193,645,429 vaccinations have been administered across the continent.
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