Phaahla: Weekly Gauteng COVID Infections Went up by 400% in 1st week of December

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Health Minister Joe Phaahla says the Omicron variant of COVID-19 is more transmissible compared to other variants, including Delta. 

Phaahla gave an update on government’s coronavirus response and vaccination plan on Friday morning.

The minister said weekly COVID-19 infections in Gauteng surged by 400% in the first week of December.

Phaahla said recent genomic sequencing results revealed that Omicron was the dominant variant among samples sequenced during November and up to 70% of specimens showed Omicron.

“The number of people testing positive has risen rapidly in Gauteng and Omicron has spread to most provinces. The reproductive number of the virus is currently 2.5, higher than it was at any prior point in the pandemic.”

Phaahla says It is not yet clear whether infection with Omicron causes more severe disease or death as compared to infections with other variants, including Delta.

“Preliminary data suggests that there are increasing rates of hospitalization in South Africa, but this may be due to increasing overall numbers of people becoming infected, rather than a result of specific infection with Omicron.”

Phaahla says scientists are conducting studies to understand the potential impact the Omicron variant and how well the vaccines work but it will take 2-3 weeks before there is clear evidence of the vaccines’ performance against Omicron.

Phaahla says the Ccurrent vaccines remain effective against severe disease and death. 

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