SA backtracks on masks for children amid Covid surge

SA backtracks on masks for children amid Covid surge

The South African government on Thursday retracted its earlier announcement stating school children were no longer required to wear masks amid a surge of infections driven by two new Omicron sub-variants.

COVID-19 schools mask

The withdrawal came 16 hours after the health ministry dropped the requirement for school children to wear masks. 

In a new statement, the ministry said it was clearing "the confusion created by unfortunate and regrettable human error" arising from an earlier media statement "about the removal of face mask wearing by children at school".

It said all people, including children, were still expected to continue complying with Covid-19 regulations, among them, wearing of masks in public indoor spaces, and limiting numbers attending large events.

South Africa has officially recorded more than 3.8 million cases and 100,407 deaths -- the highest toll across Africa -- and less than 45 percent of the adult population has been fully vaccinated. 

"The only way we can protect ourselves and our loved ones against this pandemic and the current rising number of positive cases is through vaccination and adhering to preventative measures at all times," the health ministry said in a statement.

READ: Two Omicron sub-variants driving South Africa Covid spike: WHO

After a relative lull last month, numbers of new infections have been climbing, and on Wednesday, more than 6,100 new cases were detected.

Inbound travellers are still required to be fully vaccinated or show proof of a negative PCR test.

Indoor gatherings are limited to 1,000 people or half of the venue's capacity, while outdoor events are capped at 2,000 people. Attendees are required to be vaccinated or provide a negative Covid-19 test.

World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Wednesday said that two Omicron sub-variants, BA.4 and BA.5, were behind the surge in cases in South Africa. 

He said it was "too soon to know whether these new sub-variants can cause more severe disease than other Omicron sub-variants." 

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