President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa said hospitals are ready for increased admissions as the country enters its fourth COVID-19 wave, driven by the Omicron coronavirus strain.
"As the country enters a fourth wave of COVID-19 infections, we are seeing the highest rate of infections since the pandemic began," Ramaphosa stated on Monday.
This month, Omicron was discovered in South Africa, raising global panic over fears of a fresh outbreak.
Daily COVID-19 cases in South Africa increased to over 16,000 on Friday, up from approximately 2,300 on Monday.
Ramaphosa stated in a weekly statement that Omicron looked to be causing the majority of new cases in the country's nine provinces and advised more people to acquire COVID-19 vaccines.
The president emphasized that an outbreak of illnesses was anticipated.
"Disease modelers in our country told us that a fourth wave would almost certainly occur around this time and that new variants of the virus would almost certainly emerge," he said.
He also urged people to get vaccinated and stated that the country now had adequate vaccine supplies.
"Vaccination is critical for economic recovery because as more people are vaccinated, more economic opportunities open up," he explained.
According to the Our Word in Data website, approximately 25% of the South African population has had a complete vaccination against COVID-19, while 4.7 percent has received only a single dose.
The government will shortly meet the National Coronavirus Command Council to assess the pandemic's current state and determine whether additional steps are necessary to ensure public safety, Ramaphosa said.
South African and international scientists are rushing to determine whether Omicron is more contagious, causes more severe sickness, and is more resistant to currently available vaccinations.
However, early reports from doctors and experts in South Africa indicate that most illnesses caused by the new variety are minor.
"We are closely monitoring infection and hospitalization rates," Ramaphosa stated.