The number of coronavirus infections with the newly reported Omicron variant is increasing exponentially in South Africa, the latest figures show.
The new variant was detected as early as 8 November 2021 and has resulted in several countries imposing entry bans for travellers from various southern African countries. It is probably now present in all provinces in the country, according to figures presented during the South African Parliament's Committee on Health on Thursday evening.
"In a fortnight's time, the country has seen an exponential increase in infections, largely due to the new variant which is now the dominant variant," doctor Michelle Groome of the National Institute of Infectious Diseases (NICD) said during the meeting.
South Africa detected 8,561 new coronavirus infections on Wednesday, about double the number of new cases reported on Tuesday – when 4,373 infections were recorded – and four times the number recorded on Monday.
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Although an increasing number of older people are becoming infected, young people between the ages of 10 and 29 are driving the increase, with the end of year school celebrations becoming contamination hotspots.
Around 74% of the 249 virus genomes sequenced in the country in the last month are linked to the new variant. According to the institute's data, the Omicron variant can overcome some immunity "but existing vaccines should still protect against severe disease and death," Groome said.
In Belgium, two new coronavirus cases were reported with this Omicron variant on Thursday. A total of four new infections have been linked to the strain across the country, as two non-linked cases were already detected in recent days.
Update#Omicron situation today in #Belgium: - 4 cases confirmed by sequencing (2 clusters of 2 patients: first cluster linked to Egypt/Turkey ; second cluster not linked to travel) - 6 probable cases (based on several genetic markers, but awaiting sequencing confirmation).— Emmanuel André (@Emmanuel_microb) December 2, 2021