SARS-CoV-2 variants on the COVID-19 epidemic in South Africa"/>
Our researchers discovered a novel form of the coronavirus that causes Covid-19 sickness earlier this week.
The World Health Organization has designated Omicron as a 'variant of concern.'
The Omicron form was discovered in Botswana and later in South Africa, and scientists have found examples in Hong Kong, Australia, Belgium, Italy, the United Kingdom, Germany, Austria, Denmark, and Israel. The early identification of this mutation is due to the exceptional work of our scientists in South Africa, as well as the investment made by our Science and Innovation and Health Departments in our genomic surveillance capabilities.
This rise has been concentrated in Gauteng, while cases are also on the rise in other provinces.
In the last seven days, we have observed an average of 1,600 new cases, compared to 500 new cases per day the prior week and 275 new cases per day the week before that.
In less than a week, the proportion of COVID-19 tests that are positive has jumped from roughly 2% to 9%.
This is an unusually rapid increase in infections in a short period of time.
If the number of cases continues to rise, we can expect a fourth wave of illnesses within the next few weeks, if not sooner. This should not be surprising.
Epidemiologists and disease modelers have predicted that a fourth wave will arrive in early December.
Scientists have also predicted the advent of new variations.
We are one of the countries in the world that has built up a surveillance network around the country to assist us in monitoring Covid-19's behavior.
Because of the early finding of this variant and the work that has already been done to understand its features and potential implications, we are better prepared to respond to the variant. We honor all of our experts who are world-renowned and internationally respected, and who have exhibited a thorough understanding of epidemiology.
As a result of the work our scientists have been doing on genome surveillance, we already know a few things about the variant.
For starters, we now know that Omicron has considerably more mutations than any other variety.
Second, we know that Omicron is easily recognized by the Covid-19 tests currently in use.
This means that those who have Covid-19 symptoms or have come into touch with someone who has Covid-19 should still be checked.
Third, we know that this variant is distinct from other circulating variants and is not related to the Delta or Beta variants.
Fourth, we know that the variation is to blame for the majority of the infections discovered in Gauteng over the last two weeks, and it is now spreading to all other provinces.
We still don't know a lot about the variant, and experts in South Africa and around the world are working hard to figure out what they are.
We have witnessed how vaccines have drastically decreased severe disease, hospitalization, and death in South Africa and around the world since the first Covid-19 shots became available late last year.
Vaccines are effective. Vaccines are saving people's lives. Over 25 million vaccine doses have been distributed in South Africa since we commenced our public immunization program in May 2021.
This is a wonderful accomplishment. It is by far the most comprehensive health intervention carried out in this country in such a short period of time.
41% of the adult population has gotten at least one vaccination dose, and 35.6 percent of adult South Africans are fully immunized against Covid-19.
Significantly, 57% of those aged 60 and over are fully vaccinated, while 53% of people aged 50 to 60 are fully vaccinated.
Mass gatherings, such as big conferences and meetings, should be converted to virtual forms, particularly those that require a large number of people to be in close contact for extended periods of time.
End-of-year parties and matric year-end raves, as well as other celebrations, should be postponed if possible, and everyone should consider twice before attending or organizing a gathering.
When gatherings do occur, all relevant Covid-19 regulations must be strictly followed.
Every new interaction raises our chances of becoming infected or infecting someone else.
The National Coronavirus Command Council met yesterday to discuss the recent increase in infections as well as the potential implications of the Omicron variety.
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