South Africa’s new cases of COVID-19 have nearly doubled in a day, signalling a dramatic surge in the country where scientists detected the omicron variant last week.
New confirmed cases rose to 8561 on Wednesday from 4373 a day earlier, according to official statistics.
Scientists in South Africa said they are bracing for a rapid increase in COVID-19 cases following the discovery of the new Omicron variant.
“There is a possibility that really we’re going to be seeing a serious doubling or tripling of the cases as we move along or as the week unfolds,” Dr Nicksy Gumede-Moeletsi, regional virologist for the World Health Organisation, told the Associated Press.
South Africa had seen a period of low transmission in early November with a seven-day average of about 200 new cases a day, but in the middle of November new cases began to rapidly increase.
South Africa’s previous surge, driven by the Delta variant in June and July, saw daily new cases reach a peak of more than 20,000.
With a population of 60 million people, South Africa has recorded more than 2.9 million COVID-19 cases, including nearly 90,000 deaths.
It’s too early to be certain that the Omicron variant is responsible for the rise in cases, but it is very possible, experts say.
Hospitalisations for COVID-19 are rising in South Africa, but not at the dramatic rate of the new cases.
The Omicron variant has been detected in five of South Africa’s nine provinces and accounted for 74 per cent of the virus genomes sequenced in November, the country’s National Institute for Communicable Diseases said on Wednesday.
The earliest detection of the variant in South Africa may have been on November 8 in Gauteng province.