Covid Scare: It’s ‘Fake News’, No Masks Urged, Says Health Department

Johannesburg – The Department of Health has rejected, as false, messages circulating on social media urging people to wear masks to protect themselves from a new deadly Covid-19 variant that has been detected.

“The Department of Health has noted a misleading message circulating through social media platforms attributed to the Ministry of Health, calling for everyone to wear a mask because of the alleged detection of a new [Covid] variant of concern,” said Foster Mohale, Spokesperson for the National Health Department.

“The department would like to dismiss this as fake news by faceless sources whose sole intention is to create unnecessary panic.

“The fact of the matter is, the World Health Organization [WHO] has issued a notification in October this year (2022) on the Omicron sublineages BQ.1 and XBB detected around the world as part of ongoing work to track variants by the Technical Advisory Group on SARS-CoV-2 Virus Evolution (TAG-VE).”

Mohale explained that the role of the TAG-VE was to alert WHO if a variant that can cause more severe disease or lead to large epidemic waves causing increased burden to the healthcare system is emerging and likely to pose a significant threat.

“At the current moment, there is no epidemiological evidence that these sublineages will be of substantially greater risk compared to other Omicron sublineages,” Mohale said in a statement released at the weekend.

“The department, working with the NICD [National Institute for Communicable Diseases] and other scientists, continues to monitor all Covid-19 lineages, and appeals to South Africans to continue to be vigilant as they embark on festive season activities.

“The known Covid-19 virus variants are still in circulation, and we are not off the hook from the pandemic, hence people are urged to vaccinate and take boosters shots that they qualify for to enhance their level of immunity.”

AUDIO REPORT: Foster Mohale, Spokesperson for National Health Department