The statement is at odds with the reaction to Omicron in western countries, particularly the UK where hysteria is now running rampant despite the variant causing milder symptoms than Delta.

“According to scientific studies, this virus is spreading quicker than in previous waves, but the rates of hospitalisations and deaths remain relatively low,” said Minister of Health Dr Joe Phaahla.

He went on to tell South Africans that they should practice reasonable safety measures and avoid “super-spreader” events, but that the Omicron variant should not prevent a “joyous Christmas, and prosperous New Year celebrations.”

The country will also remain at level 1 of restrictions, which is the lowest level.