JOHANNESBURG – The Omicron variant has been able to elicit some immunity, according to the latest data from South Africa, but vaccines should still provide protection against serious disease, where it is rapidly overtaking Delta to become the dominant variant.
Omicron, which has sparked global fears of a surge in infections, was first detected in southern Africa last week and has prompted governments across the continent to impose travel restrictions and other measures and contain it.
The new variant has been found in five of the nine South African provinces and is likely to be present across the country, the latest official report on Wednesday showed.
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The daily number of reported cases doubled to 8,561. It was not known how many of them were Omicron because not all test samples are subject to genomic sequencing, but an official presentation said Omicron was “increasingly becoming the dominant variant.”
Omicron contributed 74% of the 249 virus genomes sequenced in South Africa in November, according to the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD), which is collecting data as part of a broader national network for genomic surveillance.
South Africa performs genome sequencing on only a small proportion of the total samples collected each week. The NICD did not specify the total number of confirmed cases of Omicron infection.
“(d) the mutation profile and epidemiological picture suggests that Omicron is able to elicit some of our immune protection (to cause infection), but that protection from serious illness and vaccine deaths should be less affected, The monitoring network’s latest report said. ,
The first sample in which the variant was detected was collected on 8 November in Gauteng, South Africa’s most populous province, where Johannesburg and Pretoria are located.
Since then, it has been found in the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu Natal, Mpumalanga and the Western Cape.
Earlier, organizers had put a concert for young people on hold after 36 people tested positive for COVID-19 at the site.
The Ballito Rage music festival began on Tuesday in the city of Ballito, north of Durban on South Africa’s east coast. Of the 940 people tested for COVID during the first eight hours of the event, 32 guests and four employees were positive.
It was not known whether 36 were infected with Omicron or any other variant.
The delta version triggered a third wave of infections in South Africa, which peaked in early July at more than 26,000 cases per day.
Since the start of the pandemic, the country has reported close to 3 million infections and more than 89,000 deaths, the most on the African continent.