Africa’s top public health official said that severe lockdowns were no longer the best way to contain COVID-19, praising South Africa for adopting that approach when responding to its latest infection wave driven by the Omicron variant. “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.” South Africa experienced a steep rise in COVID-19 infections from late November, around the time it alerted the world to Omicron, with new infections peaking in mid-December at an all-time record. But new cases have since fallen back, and the government did not resort to strict restrictions as it did during previous infection waves given early signs that the bulk of Omicron infections had been mild. It even loosened rules before New Year’s Eve.