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Omicron Covid-19 variant puts the world on edge

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Omicron Covid-19 variant puts the world on edge

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South Africa is seeing an increase in re-infections of the coronavirus in patients who contract the Omicron variant, Anne von Gottberg, a microbiologist with the country’s National Institute of Communicable Diseases, said at a press briefing Thursday.

“Previous infection used to protect against [the] Delta [coronavirus variant] but now with Omicron, that doesn’t appear to be the case, ”Gottberg said at a WHO Africa briefing.
“We monitored these re-infections for beta [variant] and the for the Delta wave, and we haven’t seen an increase in re-infections beyond what we expected when the strength of the infection changes, when the wave stops. However, we are seeing an increase for Omicron, ”Gottberg explained.

Data from South Africa, however, shows re-infections may be less severe, Gottberg added. “We think, I absolutely think so, that the re-infections in our data, and hopefully in South Africa, this disease will be less severe,” Gottberg said.

“And this is what we are trying to prove and monitor very carefully in South Africa. And so would those who are vaccinated,” she added.

South Africa is entering its fourth wave of the coronavirus, Gottberg said, with cases in the country increasing at a “rapid rate”, especially in Gauteng province, the most populous in the country.

More 8,000 new cases daily were detected in the country on Wednesday, Gottberg said, with scientists expecting cases increase to 10,000 per day. “We believe the number of cases will increase exponentially in all provinces of the country,” she said.

Only a limited number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the country are sequenced, Gottberg explained. Of 249 cases sequenced in November, 183 were confirmed to be the Omicron variant, which equates to 70-75% according to Gottberg.

“Looks like there was a predominance of Omicron throughout the country. And Omicron has been identified by sequencing in at least five of our provinces (which are) sequencing data, ”she told reporters.

The World Health Organization also announced that it will deploy a surge team to Gauteng province to help with surveillance, sequencing and contact tracing.

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