Omicron causing sharp rise in new cases in South Africa, as country enters fourth wave

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CAPE TOWN, Dec 3 (Reuters) – South Africa is facing an “unprecedented rise” in new COVID-19 cases over a short time due to the Omicron variant, top scientist Michelle Groome of South Africa’s National Institute for Communicable Diseases said on Friday.

Groome told a media briefing that although additional data on the varient detected in the country last month is still needed on the severity and transmissibility of the variant, the country was starting to see infections move from the younger age cohort into older people.

She said it was important for surge preparedness to include pediatric beds and staff as there has been increased admissions among children under four years of age. 

South African Health Minister Joe Phaahla said on Friday the country was entering its fourth wave of COVID-19 infections due to the Omicron variant, but hospitals were not under threat at this stage.

Phaahla told a media briefing that infections with the new variant were now present in seven out of the country’s nine provinces, and hoped that the variant could be managed without causing too many deaths.

He urged South Africans to be fully vaccinated, saying that was the best protection against Omicron.

Photo – Soweto residents walk in front of an informative graffiti art work educating local Soweto residents about the dangers of the coronavirus, Johannesburg, South Africa. EPA-EFE/KIM LUDBROOK

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