Covid cases in South Africa double in a day amid Omicron concerns

Covid-19 cases have nearly doubled in a day in South Africa, authorities reported on Wednesday. The dramatic surge in the country comes after scientists detected the omicron variant in the country last week.

New confirmed cases rose to 8,561 on December 1 from 4,373 a day earlier, according to official statistics. Scientists in South Africa said they are bracing for a rapid increase in Covid-19 cases following the discovery of the new omicron variant.

Dr. Nicksy Gumede Moeletsi, the regional virologist for the World Health Organization (WHO), said that there is a possibility of a vast increase in the number of cases getting identified in South Africa. He further added on having a possibility of a serious doubling or tripling of the cases moving along the week.

Early in November, South Africa experienced a period of low transmission, with an average of roughly 200 new cases per day over a seven-day period. The situation changed by the middle of November as new cases started increasing rapidly. The latest surge in cases on Wednesday reflects a 16.5% positive rate of patients tested, up from 1% in early November.

The previous surge of Covid-19 cases in South Africa, which was driven by the delta strain, peaked at around 20,000 new cases per day during June and July. South Africa, which has a population of 60 million people, has recorded more than 2.9 million COVID-19 infections, with nearly 90,000 deaths. Experts say it’s too early to say whether the omicron variant is to blame for the increase in instances, but it has a strong possibility. Standard PCR testing cannot indicate that Omicron is the cause of a positive case, but only comprehensive genetic sequencing can prove it.

Hospitalizations for COVID-19 are rising in South Africa, but not at the dramatic rate of the new cases.

The omicron variant has been detected in five of South Africa’s nine provinces and accounted for 74% of the virus genomes sequenced in November, the country’s National Institute for Communicable Diseases announced Wednesday. The earliest detection of the variant in South Africa may have been on Nov. 8 in Gauteng province, according to data released by the institute. It said until the end of October, the delta variant accounted for most Covid-19 genomes sequenced in the country, but in November the omicron variant overtook it.