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Severe lockdowns were no longer the best way to contain the virus, Africa's top public health official pointed out adding that he was encouraged by the way that the country handled latest COVID-19 wave driven by the Omicron variant.

"We are very encouraged with what we saw in South Africa during this period where they look at the data in terms of severity," John Nkengasong, director of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), told a news conference.

"The period where we are using severe lockdowns as a tool is over. We should actually be looking at how we use public health and social measures more carefully and in a balanced way as the vaccination increases."

From the late November, the country saw a sharp rise in COVID cases, around the time it alerted the world to Omicron, The graph for the infection peaked in mid-December at an all-time record. But new cases have since fallen back, and the government did not resort to strict restrictions like during previous infection waves.

"The number of infections increased very steeply, but also decreased very, very sharply... I think that is a lesson that we all should learn from what the South Africans have done to manage this," Nkengasong added.

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