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Young people bearing brunt of Covid-19 resurgence, ICU doctor warns

Plett Rage in 2014. Organisers say this year's event next week will go ahead but vaccine certificates and testing will be mandatory.
Plett Rage in 2014. Organisers say this year's event next week will go ahead but vaccine certificates and testing will be mandatory.
Image: SHELLEY CHRISTIANS

The speed at which the new Covid-19 variant Omicron is infecting young people has alarmed South Africa health professionals.

“We’re seeing a marked change in the demographic profile of patients with Covid-19,” Rudo Mathivha, head of intensive care at Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital in Soweto, told an online media briefing on Saturday.

“Young people, in their 20s to just over their late 30s, are coming in with moderate to severe disease, some needing intensive care. About 65% are not vaccinated and most of the rest are only half-vaccinated.

IN NUMBERS

21.32%: 18 to 34-year-olds fully vaccinated

35.5%: Adults fully vaccinated

57%: Over-60s fully vaccinated

“I’m worried that as the numbers go up, the public healthcare facilities will become overwhelmed.”

Only 27% of 18 to 34-year-olds have had a vaccination dose, meaning 13-million have yet to have a jab. By contrast, 64% of over-60s have been vaccinated.

Epidemiologist and former ministerial advisory committee chair Prof Salim Abdool Karim said it is too early to make definitive statements about young people being more susceptible to Omicron. “What we can expect is that we are likely to see more cases in those who are not vaccinated,” he said.

“Younger people are less vaccinated than older people. If there are more younger people who present with the new variant, it may be a function of vaccination. But we don’t know yet whether the younger people at Baragwanath hospital actually have this variant.”

Despite scores of Ballito matric ragers testing positive for Covid-19 after last year's event, organisers said this year's event would go ahead from Tuesday to December 6 and be limited to youngsters with vaccination certificates.

Spokesperson Darren Sandras said the festival had “all available Covid-19 safety precautions in place, well beyond those mandated by government”. Rapid antigen tests would be conducted on guests and staff on the first and third days.

Plett Rage director Ronen Klugman, whose event will run from December 3 to 7, said matrics would have to arrive with a vaccination certificate and proof of a negative PCR test. Guests and staff will be subjected to rapid testing between two or three times during the festival.

Klugman urged youngsters attending the festival to be cautious about gatherings they attend before the festival.

Minister in the presidency Mondli Gungubele said in a post-cabinet briefing on Thursday that “events such as the matric rage and matric farewell after-parties are superspreaders”.

“Large gatherings, especially those which involve the consumption of alcohol, are a major risk and undermine our efforts to contain the spread of the virus.”


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