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Covid-19: The new Omicron variant

By Hajira Khota                                                                                                                                                             30.11.2021

Despite an increase in the number of Covid-19 infections as a direct result of the new strain, the government has once again urged South Africans not to fear. The Department of Health updated the country, telling citizens not to be concerned about the new variant because the country was expecting and preparing for the fourth wave.

The World Health Organisation has labelled the new variety, known as B.1.1.529, as a variant of concern and given it the name Omicron.

South Africa reacted strongly to travel restrictions put on it after its genomic surveillance team discovered a new form of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which were prompted by the UK. Since the beginning of the pandemic, the South African Network for Genomics Surveillance has been tracking changes in SARS-CoV-2.

The changes found in Omicron raise the possibility that the variation is somewhat more transmissible than Delta and has lower sensitivity to antibody activity caused by previous infection or vaccinations when compared to how well antibodies neutralise ancestry virus.

Professor Shabir Madhi spoke to Radio Islam International; he says that there are five steps to avoid and ten to take immediately.

“This virus is not going to go away, there will be resurgence”.

Madhi says that higher levels of restriction are required when health facilities are expected to be overburdened. Due to the fact that hospitalisation rates typically lag behind community infection rates by 2-3 weeks, keeping a watch on case rates and hospitalisation rates should help forecast which facilities in which regions are at risk.

Booster shots should be taken as soon as it becomes available, says Madhi.

“This will help reduce the risk of being hospitalised and dying of Covid-19 by 80-90%”.

Madhi says that one needs to learn to live with the virus and take a holistic approach to the pandemic’s direct and indirect consequences on livelihoods. The negative indirect economic, sociological, educational, mental health and other health implications of a sledgehammer approach to dealing with the ongoing pandemic threaten to outnumber COVID’s direct impact in South Africa.

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