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South Africa’s new cases of COVID-19 nearly doubled in one day, officials said on Wednesday, indicating a dramatic jump in the country where scientists detected the Omicron variant last week.

New confirmed cases rose to 8,561 on Wednesday from 4,373 a day earlier, according to official figures.

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Scientists in South Africa said they were prepared for a rapid rise in COVID-19 cases following the discovery of the new Omicron variant.

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“There’s a possibility that we’re actually going to have a doubling or tripling of the severity of cases as we go on or the weeks unfold,” said Dr. Nikki Gumede-Moeletsi, a regional virologist at the World Health Organization. The Associated Press. “There is a possibility that we are going to see a huge increase in the number of cases identified in South Africa.”

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South Africa saw a period of low transmission in early November, with around 200 new cases per day averaging seven days, but new cases began to rise rapidly in mid-November. The new cases reported on Wednesday represent a 16.5% positivity rate of cases tested, up from 1% in early November.

South Africa’s previous surge, driven by the Delta version in June and July, saw daily new cases peak at more than 20,000. With a population of 60 million people, South Africa has recorded more than 2.9 million COVID-19 cases, including about 90,000 deaths.

A woman is vaccinated against COVID-19 in Lolli, south of Johannesburg, South Africa, Wednesday, December 1, 2021.

Experts say it is too early to determine whether an omicron type is responsible for the increase in cases, but it is very possible. Standard PCR tests may suggest that a positive case is due to Omicron, but only a complete genetic sequencing can confirm this.

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Labs in South Africa and Botswana are conducting urgent genomic sequencing to study Omicron cases to see if it is highly transmitted, causes more severe cases of COVID-19 or if it Vaccination eludes protection, Gumede-Moeletti said.

“The current data that we have is still very limited. That’s why there are so many additional features of this virus that researchers are busy studying, of which transmission is one of them. Severity is also another,” she said, adding that researchers also know needs to be ascertained whether existing vaccines will still be effective against it.

A woman is tested for COVID-19 at Lenasia South Hospital, near Johannesburg, South Africa, on Wednesday, December 1, 1021.

Hospitalizations for COVID-19 are increasing in South Africa, but not at the dramatic rate of new cases.

The omicron variant has been detected in five of South Africa’s nine provinces and accounts for 74% of the virus genome sequenced in November, the country’s National Institute of Communicable Diseases announced on Wednesday.

According to data released by the institute, the earliest address of the edition in South Africa may be in Gauteng province on 8 November. It said that by the end of October, the delta variant accounted for most of the genome sequenced in the country, but in November the Omicron variant overtook it.