New cases of COVID-19 in South Africa nearly doubled in one day, authorities said on Wednesday, indicating a significant increase in the country where scientists discovered the omicron variant last week.
New confirmed cases rose to 8,561 on Wednesday from 4,373 the day before, according to official statistics.
Scientists in South Africa said they are preparing for a rapid increase in COVID-19 cases after the discovery of a new omicron variant.
“There is a possibility that we will actually see a serious doubling or doubling of the number of cases as we go or as the week goes on,” said Dr Nixi Gumed Moelici, a regional virologist at the World Health Organization. News agency. “There is a possibility that we will see a significant increase in the number of cases being identified in South Africa.”
South Africa had a low transmission period in early November with an average of 7 days of about 200 new cases per day, but in mid-November new cases began to increase rapidly. The new cases reported Wednesday represent a positive rate of 16.5% of cases tested, up from the 1% rate in early November.
The previous increase in South Africa, driven by the delta variable in June and July, saw daily new cases peak at more than 20,000. South Africa has a population of 60 million, and has recorded more than 2.9 million cases of COVID-19, including Close to 90,000 deaths.
It’s too early to confirm that the omicron variant is responsible for the spike in cases, but it’s very possible, experts say. Standard PCR tests can indicate that a positive case is due to an omicron, but only complete genetic sequencing can confirm this.
Gumed Moeletsi said labs in South Africa and Botswana are urgently sequencing the omicron cases in order to see if they are significantly more transmissible, cause more severe cases of COVID-19 or if they evade protection from vaccines.
“The current data we have is still very limited. So, there are many additional characteristics of this virus that researchers are busy studying, of which transmissibility is one. Severity is also another,” adding that researchers also need to know whether current vaccines will remain effective against it.
The number of hospitalizations from COVID-19 in South Africa is rising, but not at the dramatic rate of new cases.
The National Institute of Infectious Diseases announced Wednesday that the omicron variant has been detected in five of South Africa’s nine provinces, accounting for 74% of the virus’ genomes sequenced in November.
The variant’s first detection in South Africa may be on November 8 in Gauteng province, according to data from the institute. Until the end of October, the delta variant accounted for most of the country’s sequenced genome, she said, but in November the omicron variant overtook it.
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