COVID-19 Cases Surge In South Africa As Omicron Variant Spreads

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Cases of the new coronavirus in South Africa have risen from nearly 200 a day in mid-November to more than 16,000 on Friday.

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JOHANNESBURG (AP) – Dr. Sikhuli Moyo was analyzing COVID-19 samples in his laboratory in Botswana last week when he noticed that they looked surprisingly different from others.

within days, the world was blown away by the news that the coronavirus concern had a new form – one that is driving a dramatic boom in South Africa and offers a glimpse of where Epidemic can be led.

New COVID-19 cases in South Africa have risen from nearly 200 daily in mid-November to more than 16,000 on Friday. Omicron was detected more than a week ago Gauteng, the country’s most populous province, and has since spread to all eight other provinces, Health Minister Joe Fahla said.

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Even with the rapid increase, infections are still well below the 25,000 new daily cases that South Africa reported in its previous surge in June and July.

Little is known about the new variant, but the spike in South Africa suggests it may be more contagious, said scientist Moyo, who may have been the first to identify the new variant, although those from neighboring South Africa. The researchers were on his heels. There are more than 50 mutations in Omicron, and scientists have called it a huge leap forward in the evolution of viruses.

It is not clear whether the variant causes more severe disease or may evade the protection of the vaccines. Fahla said that of those who have been vaccinated, only a small number of people have become ill, mostly mild cases, while the majority of those admitted to the hospital were not vaccinated.

But in a worrying development, South African scientists reported that Omicron is more likely to cause reinfection than earlier variants in people who have already contracted COVID-19.

“Previous infections used to protect against Delta, and now it doesn’t seem to be the case with Omicron,” Anne von Gottberg, one of the researchers at the University of the Witwatersrand, told a World Health Organization briefing on Thursday.

While the study did not examine the protection offered by vaccination, von Gottberg said: “We believe that vaccines will still protect against serious disease.”

The findings, posted online Thursday, are preliminary and have not yet received scientific review.

A health worker prepares to test a person for COVID-19 in Soweto, South Africa, Wednesday, December 2, 2021. South Africa has stepped up its vaccination campaign by giving jabs at pop-up sites in shopping centers and transport hubs. Combat the rapidly increasing new cases of COVID-19.
Dennis Farrell via The Associated Press

Fahla said hospitals in South Africa are facing a boom so far, even in Gauteng province, which accounts for more than 70% of all new infections.

The picture may change as most of those infected so far are young people, who do not usually get sick like older patients. But Moyo expressed hope that the vaccine will continue to work against the variant.

“I have high hopes from the data that we see that vaccinators should have a lot of protection,” he said.

matches with What WHO officials said in Asia Friday.

Cautioning that omicrons could cause cases to rise rapidly, WHO’s regional director for the Western Pacific, Dr. Takeshi Kasai, said the measures used against the delta variant – which led to a worldwide surge – need to be met with response. Must remain in the original.

“The positive news in all of this is that we currently don’t have any information about Omicron that suggests we need to change the direction of our response,” Butcher said.

That means emphasizing high vaccination rates, following social-distancing guidelines and wearing masks, among other measures, WHO’s regional emergency director Dr. Babatunde Olovokure said.

While more than three dozen countries around the world have reported Omicron infections, outside South Africa the numbers are far lower. This has led several countries to race to impose travel restrictions on visitors to southern Africa – a move WHO officials said could buy some time, although the agency had previously urged against closing the borders.

The travel restrictions have been strongly criticized by South Africa, which it says is being punished for moving so quickly to be transparent and alert the world to Omicron. The WHO said it was informed about the new version by the country on 24 November.

“We must re-emphasize that the variant was first discovered and reported by our scientists and in Botswana, but no one knows where it originated,” Fahla said.

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