WATCH | Understanding the variant pushing up SA’s Covid-19 numbers

The WHO this week thanked SA scientists for their work in detecting the Omicron variant. We take a look at what we know so far.

03 December 2021 - 11:19 By Catherine White and Dianne Hawker

Covid-19 cases have started to increase in almost all provinces, health minister Joe Phaahla confirmed in the latest coronavirus update.

Indications are the new variant Omicron has fuelled the 300% increase in cases compared to last week. 

On Thursday the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) released the latest Covid-19 figures, reporting 11,535 new cases in 24 hours.

This is in stark contrast to a week ago, when cases stood at 2,838 on November 26. 

“No-one know where this variant originated. Indications are it is highly transmissible, including to people who are vaccinated,” Phaahla said. 

He said those who are vaccinated have presented mild symptoms. 

“While there are still questions, the evidence is very clear that our best protection lies in vaccination.” 

In the eight days since the world became aware of Omicron, it has been identified in at least 23 countries, despite travel bans instituted by a number of countries. 

Research is under way to understand the variant in more detail. In the meantime, the Delta variant remains the dominant mutation globally.

The emergence of new Covid-19 variants is not unexpected. Leading epidemiologist Prof Salim Abdool Karim said: “We were not caught with our pants down. We were expecting a new variant around this time. We didn’t know what it would look like.”

Watch the video to see what doctors and scientists know so far. 



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