South African President Cyril Ramaphosa is self-isolating in Cape Town and receiving treatment after testing positive on Sunday (Dec. 12) for COVID-19, an official South African government statement said.
The president began feeling ill earlier that day following the state memorial service for the former Deputy President FW de Klerk, the last apartheid-era president who died in November after a battle with cancer at age 85.
Ramaphosa, who is fully vaccinated, is “in good spirits.” He has mild symptoms and is being monitored by the South African Military Health Service of the South African National Defence Force. During his recovery, Ramaphosa, 69, delegated his official duties to Deputy President David Mabuza.
The president and a South African delegation traveled recently to four West African countries, where they were tested in each nation for COVID-19. They returned to Johannesburg, South Africa on Dec. 8 from Senegal and tested negative.
According to the Associated Press, some members of the delegation, however, returned directly to South Africa after testing positive in Nigeria.
The government statement didn’t identify which variant of the coronavirus Ramaphosa contracted. South Africa has recently seen a sharp increase in COVID-19 cases, according to CNN. Cases nearly quadrupled over a four-day period the news outlet reported on Dec. 4, highlighting that the newly discovered omicron variant is highly contagious.
In November, scientists in South Africa were the first to identify the omicron variant, causing several countries to close their borders to South African travelers. That prompted sharp criticism from Ramaphosa who said South Africa was being unfairly punished for its scientific excellence and transparency.
Ramaphosa said Sunday that his positive test should serve as a caution to South Africans to get vaccinated and to observe safety protocols to avoid contracting the disease.
According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, vaccinated people who contract the virus tend to have mainly mild or moderate illness if they don’t have chronic health conditions.