Covid-19 cases in South Africa have nearly quadrupled in the past four days, underscoring concerns about how contagious the new variant of the Omicron coronavirus could be as the country enters its fourth wave of the pandemic.
As of Friday, South Africa reported 16,055 new cases of Covid-19, up from 4,373 new cases on Tuesday.
Friday’s numbers bring the total number of confirmed Covid-19 cases beyond the 3 million mark since the start of the pandemic, according to data released by the country’s National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD).
“Today the institute reports 16,055 new cases of COVID-19 that have been identified in South Africa, bringing the total number of laboratory-confirmed cases to 3,004,203. This increase represents a positivity rate of 24.3%,” said Friday’s statement.
On Thursday, the NICD also revealed that some of the new cases were from people who had already taken Covid-19 and were reinfected with the Omicron variant.
“The previous infection used to protect against Delta, but now with Omicron that doesn’t seem to be the case,” Professor Anne von Gottberg, a microbiologist at the country’s National Institute of Communicable Diseases, said at a news conference on Thursday.
“We’ve monitored … reinfections for the Beta and for the Delta wave, and we haven’t seen an increase in reinfections beyond what we’d expect when the strength of the infection changes, when the wave stops. However, we are seeing an increase for Omicron,” she said.
Data from South Africa, however, show that reinfections may be less severe, said Professor Gottberg.
“We believe … the disease will be less severe,” Gottberg said. “And that’s what we’re trying to very carefully prove and monitor in South Africa. And so will those who are vaccinated,” she added, noting that the vaccines will continue to help prevent serious illnesses and hospital admissions as they grow. cases continue to increase at a “fast” rate.
As the numbers of new cases continue to rise, the number of deaths appears more stable in comparison, with 25 new Covid-19-related deaths reported on Friday, said the NICD.
While only a limited number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the country are being sequenced, Gottberg said, of 249 cases sequenced in November, 183 were confirmed to be the Omicron variant – equivalent to 70-75% of cases. 65,990 exams were performed in the last 24 hours, according to the NICD.
Meanwhile, the World Health Organization has also announced that it will send an emergency team to the country’s Gauteng province – the current epicenter of the Omicron outbreak – to help with surveillance, sequencing and contact tracing.
WHO will also provide technical assistance to boost the production and distribution of medicinal oxygen in Botswana, where Omicron has also been detected, said Dr Salam Gueye, WHO regional emergency director for Africa.
Reference: CNN Brasil