Karim: SA expected and prepared for new COVID variant

Professor Salim Abdool Karim said that South Africa was not caught with its pants down and the country was prepared for a new coronavirus variant.

Professor Salim Abdool Karim. Picture: Supplied

JOHANNESBURG - Professor Salim Abdool Karim said that South Africa was not caught with its pants down and the country was prepared for a new coronavirus variant.

Karim was on a panel alongside Health Minister Joe Phaahla on Monday, delivering South Africa's state of readiness to respond to the Omicron variant.

In his address on Sunday night, President Cyril Ramaphosa said that very little was known about the variant but that a clearer picture would be provided by scientists over the next few weeks.

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Professor Karim said that South Africa did all it could to prepare for the variant.

"We expected and prepared for a new variant and fourth wave as far back as September. At the Moseneke Commission, I basically outlined what I anticipated what would be the trajectory of the pandemic just based on what we've known about the first three waves," Karim said.

Meanwhile, the Department of International Relations said that instead of imposing travel bans on South Africa, European countries should rather focus on ending what it called "vaccine apartheid".

Dirco said that the world would only be safe when all developing and poor countries had equal access to COVID-19 vaccines.

Department spokesperson Clayson Monyela said that International Relations Minister Naledi Pandor was in discussions with her counterparts in the United States and the United Kingdom at the weekend over the bans.

"South Africa and India have been leading the charge at the WTO, making a call for the intellectual property rights from people who have developed the vaccines to be lifted, even if its temporarily, to then allow developing and poor countries to manufacture this vaccine in their own backyard and vaccinate their own population. It's only once we've vaccinated everyone, including the countries that have closed their borders, that we'll be safe."

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