South Africa Sees Doubling of Coronavirus Cases as Omicron Spreads

December 10, 2021 Topic: Omicron Region: Africa Blog Brand: Coronavirus Tags: OmicronCoronavirusPandemicAfricaVaccination

South Africa Sees Doubling of Coronavirus Cases as Omicron Spreads

Due to the rise of Omicron, the United Kingdom is on track to reach one million cases by the end of the month. 

The number of new coronavirus cases in South Africa has more than doubled over the past week amid the quick spread of the highly mutated Omicron coronavirus variant that was first detected in the country two weeks ago. 

During the week of November 29 to December 5, according to the World Health Organization, South Africa’s caseload surged by 111 percent from the previous week. More than sixty thousand new cases were reported in the country last week alone.   

Due to Omicron? 

However, the health agency noted that the exact cause of these case increases is still unclear. It is merely “plausible” that it is being propelled by the omicron variant, which now has been confirmed in nearly sixty countries across the world. 

This particular variant is known to boast more than thirty mutations to the spike protein, which could be potentially associated with a decrease in antibody protection and higher transmissibility rates. Meantime, scientists worldwide are scrambling to collect and analyze data on the virus and the overall effectiveness of the currently available vaccines, as there are increasing cases of community transmission with no links to travel. 

However, Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, the WHO’s technical lead on the coronavirus pandemic, acknowledged during a WHO media briefing on Wednesday that preliminary evidence from South Africa suggests that omicron is milder than the delta strain

But “it’s too early to tell,” she said. “I just only wanted to caution against any conclusions about the severity of Omicron yet.” 

Million Cases in UK  

Meanwhile, due to the rise of Omicron, the United Kingdom is on track to reach one million cases by the end of the month. 

Omicron is showcasing a significant growth advantage over the delta variant, “meaning that it is likely to outcompete delta in the U.K. and become the dominant variant,” the UK Health Security Agency noted on Wednesday. 

“If the growth rate and doubling time continue at the rate we have seen in the last two weeks, we expect to see at least 50 percent of coronavirus cases to be caused by omicron variant in the next two to four weeks,” the agency continued.  

The UK has confirmed roughly five hundred seventy cases of the new variant so far, but Health Secretary Sajid Javid told lawmakers Wednesday that “we know that the actual number of infections will be significantly higher.” 

“The U.K. Health Security Agency estimates that the (current) number of infections will be around twenty times higher than the number of confirmed cases and so the number of infections is closer to ten thousand,” Javid said. 

“At the current observed doubling rate of between two and a half and three days by the end of this month, infections could exceed a million,” he continued. 

Ethen Kim Lieser is a Washington state-based Science and Tech Editor who has held posts at Google, The Korea Herald, Lincoln Journal Star, AsianWeek, and Arirang TV. Follow or contact him on LinkedIn

Image: Reuters