South Africa entering fifth Covid wave after rise in Omicron mutations

·2-min read
A woman wears a face shield to protect against COVID-19 at a taxi rank in Soweto, South Africa (AP)
A woman wears a face shield to protect against COVID-19 at a taxi rank in Soweto, South Africa (AP)

South Africa may be entering its fifth Covid wave spurred on by the rise in Omicron mutations.

The country has had the lion’s share of Covid in the continent since the pandemic began, despite only having 5 per cent of Africa’s population.

South Africa had only left its last peak at the end of January but a new Omicron subvariant that scientists call BA.4 began pushing up cases last week and they have risen rapidly since.

The country recorded more than 6,000 Covid cases a day, up from a few hundred just a few weeks ago.

Aftermath of flooding caused by heavy rains in Ntuzuma near Durban may have contributed to Covid surge (REUTERS)
Aftermath of flooding caused by heavy rains in Ntuzuma near Durban may have contributed to Covid surge (REUTERS)

Gatherings for the recent Easter, Ramadan and Passover holidays, plus massive flooding in the coastal city of Durban, in South Africa may have contributed to the current surge, experts fear.

So far, there has been only a slight rise in hospitalisations and no increase in deaths with scientists unsure whether the subvariant will become dominant in the world after causing a fifth wave in the country.

Helen Rees, executive director of the Reproductive Health and HIV Institute at the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, said the one concerning trend they have found is children are the first to be winding up in hospitals - just like during the original Omicron surge.

Experts said BA.4 seems to be more transmissible than both the original Omicron variant and an Omicron relative known as BA.2

But it doesn’t appear BA.4 causes more severe disease than other versions of the virus, WHO said in a recent report.

South Africa has had more than a quarter of the continent’s 11.4 million reported cases and nearly half of Africa’s 252,000 deaths.

Experts said this may be because it has a more developed public health system and keeps better records of hospitalisations and deaths than other African countries.

More than 44 per cent of adult South Africans are vaccinated, according to government statistics.

Benido Impouma, a WHO official in Africa, said the latest surge “shows that people must remain vigilant and continue to adhere to public safety measures such as wearing masks, washing hands and social distancing.”

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