COVID-19 Cases Surging in South Africa, Fueled by Omicron Variant

South Africa’s COVID-19 cases have nearly quadrupled in the last four days, spurred by the new omicron variant, according to CNN.

Health officials reported 16,055 new cases Saturday, up from 4,373 new cases Tuesday. As of Friday, only 25 new COVID-19 related deaths were reported.

Around 3 million South Africans have officially contracted COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic, data released by the country’s National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) showed.

“Today, the institute reports 16,055 new COVID-19 cases that have been identified in South Africa, which brings the total number of laboratory-confirmed cases to 3,004,203. This increase represents a 24.3% positivity rate,” a Friday NICD statement read.

The NICD also revealed some of the new omicron cases were people who were previously infected with COVID-19.

“Previous infection used to protect against delta but now with omicron that doesn’t seem to be the case,” Professor Anne von Gottberg, a microbiologist for NICD, said during a news briefing Thursday.

Gottberg assured the current data obtained from the omicron variant shows it to be less severe than the delta strain.

“We believe … that disease will be less severe,” Gottberg said. “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,” she added, stressing vaccines will continue to help prevent severe disease and hospital admissions as cases continue to rise at a “rapid” rate.

Out of 249 COVID-19 cases sequenced in November by NICD, 183 were confirmed to be the Omicron variant.

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