South Africa’s daily Covid cases soar 467% oor 'n week met 16,055 new infections and hospital admissions surge 365% aan 279 amid Omicron wave — as country warns its R rate could be 3.5
Covid cases in Omicron-stricken Suid-Afrika spiralled almost five-fold in a week today and hospitalisations rocketed more than 360 per cent — as officials warn the R rate in the epicentre may be as high as 3.5.
The country’s National Institute for Communicable Diseases recorded another 16,055 Covid gevalle in die laaste 24 hours — with the vast majority in epicentre Gauteng province.
Dit was 'n sprong van 468 per cent on a week ago when 2,828 infections were announced, en op 1,900 per cent on a fortnight ago when just 789 infections were registered.
Hospitalisations also surged after 279 were recorded today, in vergelyking met 60 laas Vrydag. And deaths more than doubled after 25 were recorded compared to 12 n week gelede.
South Africa is seeing a meteoric rise in its cases amid the rampant spread of the Omicron variant, which scientists say has already reached every province in the country.
Public Health officials in Gauteng — where Johannesburg is based — say their R rate has surged to 3.5 from around one a month ago. It means every ten people infected with the virus are now spreading it to 35 ander. In die UK, the R rate has never risen above 1.6.
Terwyl Omicron se aansteeklikheid onbetwisbaar lyk, daar is toenemende onsekerheid oor hoe goed dit entstowwe kan ontduik en hoe ernstig die siekte wat dit veroorsaak sal wees. A pre-print published in the country found the variant was at least two-and-a-half times better at re-infecting people than all other variants.
Openbare gesondheidskenners in Suid-Afrika en die WGO het daarop aangedring dat gevalle slegs sag is en entstowwe moet steeds hoogs doeltreffend teen die stam wees, ten spyte van 'n gebrek aan data. But UK Health Security Agency epidemiologist Meaghan Kall warns that data currently suggests Omicron may be ‘worse’ than Delta.
Fears are mounting it is already spreading in the UK after Nicola Sturgeon warned six cases were linked to a Steps concert. Official data suggests the variant may be transmitting in England as the proportion of suspected cases rockets. UK officials have confirmed 59 Omicron cases to date.
Boris Johnson has placed South Africa and a host of other southern African nations on the ‘red list’ in a bid to slow the variant’s ‘seeding’ in die UK. He has also reimposed face masks in shops, on public transport, and in communal areas of schools in England, and said all close contacts of Omicron cases must self-isolate for ten days.
In South Africa President Cyril Ramaphosa is holding a meeting this weekend. The country remains on alert level one, which only requires face masks to be worn in public places and places some limits on large events.
Data in Suid-Afrika toon die R-koers het die afgelope weke tot meer as drie persent gestyg toe Omicron posgevat het in die Gauteng provinsie
The above graph shows the percentage of the population fully vaccinated against Covid in South Africa and the UK. It reveals that some 24 per cent of South Africans have already been jabbed, although a higher proportion now have immunity.
Sommige 59 cases of Omicron have been confirmed in the UK so far. Twenty-nine infections have been spotted in England, including three in Westminster and two in each of Barnet, Buckinhamshire, Camden, Lewisham en South Northamptonshire. And Scotland’s cases today increased by 16 aan 29. Die eerste 13 infections were divided between Lanarkshire and the Greater Glasgow and Clyde area, but a Government spokesperson declined to confirm where the 16 new cases were spotted. And Wales announced this afternoon that its first case has been found in Cardiff
'Bly kalm en gaan voort met jou Kersplanne': Oliver Dowden probeer verwarring oor feestelike raad beëindig
Oliver Dowden, voorsitter van die Tory-party, het vandag daarop aangedring dat mense 'kalm moet bly en aangaan'’ met hul Kersplanne en partytjies ten spyte van Omicron – maar Brittanje se kroeë, hotelle, restaurante en klubs wat reeds miljarde verloor, sê 'die skade is reeds aangerig’ soos die kansellasies voortduur.
Mnr Dowden het volgehou die regering was duidelik in sy riglyne – ten spyte van 'n oorvloed van ministers wat teenstrydige en verwarrende advies gee – en gesê: 'Daar is nog 'n Konserwatiewe Party Kerspartytjie beplan'.
Hy het ook gesê dat die verskaffing van Britte by maskerreëls op openbare vervoer en in winkels hou, hulle kan enigiemand wat hulle wil soen onder die maretak.
Boris Johnson het besighede versoek om nie kantoorpartytjies te kanselleer nie en versigtig voort te gaan wanneer sy ministers óf mense aangesê het om te kanselleer, dra maskers, neem toetse en moenie vreemdelinge snog nie – nie een daarvan is in die regeringsriglyne nie.
Mnr Dowden het aan Sky News gesê: 'Die boodskap aan mense, ek dink, is redelik eenvoudig – wat is, bly kalm, gaan voort met jou Kersplanne. Ons het die nodige beperkings in plek gestel, maar verder bly kalm en gaan voort.
'Ek verstaan dat mense kommer oor die nuwe variant het. Dit is hoekom die regering die soort maatreëls getref het wat ons reeds uiteengesit het … ons dink dit is voldoende op hierdie stadium en, verder as dit, mense moet voortgaan met hul planne soos bedoel.’
Te midde van verwarring oor wat om te doen, baie van Brittanje se grootste werkgewers insluitend die NHS, banke en tegnologiefirmas het feesvieringe heeltemal afgeskaf of dit aanlyn geneem. Daar word nou gesê dat dit 'n 50/50 verdeel.
NICD data is based on lateral flow and PCR tests done across South Africa every day.
It showed that in the country’s nine provinces most new infections were recorded in Gauteng (11,553 nuwe sake), where they surged 431 persent in 'n week.
The second-highest number of new infections were recorded in the Western Cape (957 gevalle, op 588 persent), followed by KwaZulu-Natal (897 gevalle, op 730 persent) en Noordwes (805 gevalle, op 594 persent).
Daily infections are spiralling in South Africa which is now recording almost 7,000 cases a day on average.
But they are rising from a much lower base than in other countries like the UK, where cases today broke through 50,000 a day for the second time in 48 ure.
South Africa’s test positivity rate — the number of swabs that detect the virus — is running very high, egter, with almost a quarter of all swabs picking up the virus.
This suggests there are many more infections in the communtiy that are not being diagnosed.
In die UK, the positivity rate is around nine per cent.
Scientists are working at breakneck speed to establish whether Omicron is more transmissible and deadly than other mutant strains. But they say it could still be at least a week before reliable estimates start to emerge.
Early reports on the ground in southern Africa suggested that most cases were mild or completely asymptomatic. But there has been no age breakdown meaning it is impossible to know whether this is because the strain is simply yet to spread to older people.
The WHO has repeatedly claimed that it is a mild strain. WHO spokesman Christian Lindmeier today told reporters in Geneva: ‘I have not seen reports of Omicron-related deaths yet.
‘We’re collecting all the evidence and we will find much more evidence as we go along.
‘The more countries… keep testing people, and looking specifically into the Omicron variant, we will also find more cases, more information, en, hopefully not, but also possibly deaths.’
But Dr Kall said she is ‘sceptical’ about claims the new strain causes less severe disease.
Writing on Twitter, sy het gese: ‘I am highly sceptical it could be more mild. I think the best case is it’s equivalent in severity to Delta… but you’ll see milder symptoms now, than Delta when it emerged, because many more people have immunity now.’
A pre-print published yesterday suggested Omicron was around three times more likely to re-infect people who had had Covid before.
South African researchers said there had been 35,670 reinfections since the beginning of the pandemic, and the risk of reinfection was 0.7 per cent during the country’s Beta-fuelled second wave last winter and Delta wave in the summer.
But the risk of catching the virus again has recently spiralled to at least 2.4.
Scientists from Stellenbosch University, naby Kaapstad, said the findings suggested Omicron was better able to evade immunity in people who had already been infected than other variants which were suppressed by immunity.
A pre-print paper means it has not yet been reviewed by other scientists, who double-check its findings.
Microbiologist at Reading University Dr Simon Clarke said the data was the ‘first indication’ that Omicron could get around immunity from previous Covid infection.
Covid-versterker-stoot sal waarskynlik teen Omicron beskerm, wetenskaplikes sê
Covid-versterker-entstowwe bied waarskynlik goeie beskerming teen die Omicron variant, kenners agter 'n groot nuwe studie sê - in die eerste sprankie hoop sedert die opkoms van die super-stam verlede week.
Die liggaam se T-sel immuunrespons na 'n derde dosis dui daarop dat hulle sal voortgaan om te beskerm teen hospitalisasie en dood van die nuwe stam, volgens die staatsbefondsde verhoor.
Daar word gemeen dat T-selle langer blywende en breër beskerming bied as teenliggaampies wat 'n aanvanklike hoër hupstoot van beskerming lewer, maar ook sien dat verdediging vinniger vervaag met verloop van tyd.
Professor Saul Faust, proefleier en direkteur van die NIHR Kliniese Navorsingsfasiliteit by Universiteitshospitaal Southampton NHS Foundation Trust, gesê: 'Al verstaan ons nie die verband daarvan met langtermyn-immuniteit behoorlik nie, die T-seldata wys vir ons dat dit blykbaar wyer teen al die variante stamme is, wat ons hoop gee dat 'n variante stam van die virus dalk hanteer kan word, beslis vir hospitalisasie en dood indien nie voorkoming van infeksie nie, deur die huidige entstowwe,’ Professor Faust gesê.
Hy het gesê dat T-selreaksie nie net op die piekproteïen gefokus is nie, maar dat ''n baie wyer reeks antigene herken wat moontlik… gemeen aan al die variante.’
Spesifiek oor Omicron gevra, hy het gesê: 'Ons hoop as wetenskaplikes is dat beskerming teen hospitalisasie en dood ongeskonde sal bly.’
Monsters van die studie is nou aan die Britse gesondheidsveiligheidsagentskap oorgedra (UKHSA) om te kyk hoe goed die Omicron-variant deur entstowwe geneutraliseer kan word.
Hy het gesê: ‘There are a few caveats in this work, such as not having definitively confirmed that it was indeed Omicron that was causing the reinfection, but they were able to determine that the increased transmission of Beta or Delta variants was not a result of immune evasion.
‘There is no indication as to how this immune evasion happens, although it can be presumed to be because of decreased antibody binding to Omicron’s mutated spike protein.’
Hy het bygevoeg: ‘Omicron has blown a big hole in the controversial argument that we should simply allow the infection to spread in an attempt to create immunity.
‘Herd immunity which now seems like nothing more than a pipe dream. We await a further indication as to whether Omicron has any ability to evade vaccine induced immunity.’
Infectious diseases expert at the University of East Anglia Professor Paul Hunter said: ‘The implications of this paper are that Omicron will be able to overcome natural and probably vaccine induced immunity to a significant degree.
‘Maar, the degree is still unclear though it is doubtful that this will represent complete escape.’
Hy het bygevoeg: ‘It remains the case that the extra value of the booster vaccination dose remains the most important step that we can take to reduce the probability of severe disease.
‘I suspect new targeted vaccinations will be developed against omicron but it the infection spreads globally as rapidly as it seems to be taking off in South Africa then most of us may already have had the infection by the time a new vaccine is available.’
Sommige 51,402 mense in die land het 'n Covid-toets afgelê en 22.4 persent van hulle het positief getoets vir die virus. Ter vergelyking, 38,075 persent van toetse wat verlede week op dieselfde dag geneem is en 6.5 persent was positief.
Intussen, Covid hospital admissions nearly tripled in a week, but deaths have fallen 64 persent.
But despite fears about Omicron, South Africa is still recording far fewer overall Covid cases compared to its population size than both the UK and US.
Figures from the Oxford University research platform Our World in Data show South Africa has 63 cases per million people compared to 638 in the UK and 257 in die VSA. Cases are rising sharply in South Africa but are starting at a low base.
Professor Anne von Gottberg, a clinical microbiologist at the NICD, revealed at a World Health Organization conference yesterday the variant was behind 75 per cent of cases nationally and it ‘does look like there is a predominance of Omicron throughout the country’.
Five of the country’s nine provinces have confirmed Omicron cases and officials expect its prevalence to be high in the remaining four areas where positive samples have not yet been sequenced. Daar was net 183 confirmed cases of the strain because only a handful of positive samples are analysed for variants.
The variant has been spotted in more than 20 countries worldwide and is likely to have been spreading for weeks before South Africa raised the alarm. The Netherlands detected a case one week earlier, while Nigeria found its first case in a sample taken in October.
It was even in the UK before it was first spotted by scientists last week, with nine cases in Scotland on November 20, causing speculation the strain was imported from the COP 26 climate conference or a rugby game at Murrayfield Stadium against South Africa.
New images of the strain’s 32 mutations were released yesterday by the Covid Genomics UK Consortium (COG-UK).
They show the variant’s three mutations — H655Y, N679K, and P681H, located in the lower right of the image — that could help the virus sneak into the body more easily.
And the graphic shows a group of mutations — K417N, S477N, Q498R, E484A and N501Y — that are thought to help Omicron dodge antibodies that usually help fight off the virus.
And N501Y, which was previously seen on Alpha, Beta and Gamma, also helps the virus bind to the body’s cells more easily, allowing for it to enter the body and replicate more efficiently.
Intussen, it has 26 mutations on its spike protein — that haven’t been seen in previous variants and scientists are still probing whether they will have any impact on how fast it can spread.