The Omicron variant is fast becoming the prevalent strain, local health authorities say, as additional nations, including the US, report cases.
The UAE and South Korea, which are currently dealing with an escalating epidemic with daily infections, have also confirmed Omicron cases.
A weekly average of roughly 300 new cases each day has risen to 1,000 last week, and most recently 3,500, according to Dr. Michelle Groome of South Africa’s National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD). On Wednesday, SA had 8,561 instances. A week ago, it was 1,275.
It’s alarming, Groome says.
The novel viral variety was discovered in a sample obtained on November 8 in Gauteng, South Africa’s most populated province, the NICD said.
Experts are trying to ascertain the amount of protection provided by vaccinations while crucial doubts regarding the Omicron variant’s transmissibility remain. WHO epidemiologist Maria van Kerkhove said evidence on Omicron’s contagiousness should be available “within days.”
Omicron may have evaded some protection, but existing vaccinations should still protect against severe sickness and death, according to the NICD. Uur Ahahin, CEO of BioNTech, said the vaccine it develops with Pfizer will likely protect against severe Omicron sickness.
While nations awaited further information, several tightened border controls to halt the virus’ spread.
There were worries that the new version may disrupt the continuing Covid rise in South Korea thus it implemented tighter travel restrictions.
Quarantine exemptions for properly vaccinated arriving tourists were banned for two weeks.
On Thursday, South Korea’s daily infections surpassed 5,200, raising concerns about an increase in patients with severe symptoms.
Infections have risen since the country’s limits were relaxed earlier this month, and the introduction of Omicron has fueled new concerns about strains on the already taxed healthcare system.
In Europe, the head of the EU executive body claimed scientists were in a “race against time” to stop the new type. The EU moved forward the start date of its immunization program for children aged 5 to 11 by a week.
“Be prepared for the worst, hope for the best,” said European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.
In reaction to the new variety, the UK and US have increased their booster programs, while Australia is revising its timetable.
American infectious diseases expert Anthony Fauci advised fully vaccinated persons to obtain a booster when eligible.
The WHO has said that the coronavirus will continue to evolve new varieties as long as huge unvaccinated populations are permitted to roam freely.
World Health Organization (WHO) head Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warned that the Delta variation “accounts for practically all cases” because to poor vaccination coverage and insufficient testing.
“We need to utilize our existing capabilities to stop Delta transfer and preserve lives. And preventing Omicron transmission will save lives,” he said.