UPDATED: South Africa scientists expect milder reinfection, post-vaccination symptoms with Omicron

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NAIROBI, Dec 2 (Reuters) – South Africa is seeing an increase in COVID-19 reinfections in patients contracting Omicron in a way that it did not experience with previous variants, a microbiologist from the country’s National Institute for Communicable Diseases said.

“Previous infection used to protect against Delta but now with Omicron that doesn’t seem to be the case,” said Professor Anne von Gottberg on Thursday during an online briefing organised by the World Health Organization.

South African scientists studying the Omicron outbreak believe symptoms are less severe for those reinfected with COVID-19 by the new variant or infected after vaccination, a top scientist said on Thursday.

“So we believe, I think very much so, that the reinfections (of the)… disease will be less severe,” von Gottberg, microbiologist at the National Institute for Communicable Diseases added.

“And that’s what we’re trying to prove and to monitor very carefully in South Africa. And the same would hold for those that are vaccinated.”

The World Health Organization (WHO) is deploying a surge team to South Africa’s Gauteng province, epicentre of the outbreak of the new Omicron coronavirus variant, to help with surveillance and contact tracing, it said on Thursday.

The WHO’s Regional Emergency Director for Africa, Salam Gueye, also said it was providing technical assistance to boost the production and distribution of medical oxygen in Botswana, where Omicron has also been detected.

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