South African president tests positive for COVID, mildly ill

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South African President Cyril Ramaphosa addresses the media after meeting with his Kenyan counterpart Uhuru Kenyatta in Pretoria, South Africa, Tuesday Nov. 23, 2021 . Kenyatta is in South Africa on a state visit to discuss political and economic issues. (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe)

By Andrew Meldrum
The Associated Press

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa is receiving treatment for mild COVID-19 symptoms after testing positive for the disease Dec. 12, his office said.

Ramaphosa started feeling unwell and a test confirmed COVID-19, a statement from the presidency announced.

He is self-isolating in Cape Town and is being monitored by the South African Military Health Service, the statement said. He has delegated all responsibilities to Deputy President David Mabuza for the next week.

Ramaphosa, 69, is fully vaccinated. The statement didn’t say whether he had been infected with the omicron coronavirus variant.

Last week, Ramaphosa visited four West African countries. He and all members of his delegation were tested for COVID-19 in each of the countries during the trip. Some in the delegation tested positive in Nigeria and returned directly to South Africa. Throughout the rest of the trip, Ramaphosa and his delegation tested negative. Ramaphosa returned from Senegal on Dec. 8

Ramaphosa said his own infection serves as a caution to all people in South Africa to be vaccinated and remain vigilant against exposure, the statement said. Vaccination remains the best protection against severe illness and hospitalization, it said.

People in South Africa who have had contact with Ramaphosa on Dec. 12 are advised to watch for symptoms or to have themselves tested, it said.

South Africa is currently battling a rapid resurgence driven by the omicron variant, health officials say.

The country recorded more than 18,000 new confirmed cases late Dec. 12. More than 70% of the cases are estimated to be from omicron, according to genetic sequencing surveys.

After a period of low transmission of about 200 new cases per day in early November, South Africa COVID-19 cases began rising dramatically. On Nov. 25, scientists in southern Africa confirmed the omicron variant, which has more than 50 mutations. Omicron appears to be highly transmissible and has quickly become dominant in the country. So far, the majority of cases have been relatively mild and the percentage of severe cases needing oxygen have been low, say doctors.

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