Africa, Latest on coronavirus outbreak

COVID-19 cases spike in South Africa as new variant raises alarm

President to gather top-level meeting Sunday to assess developments in pandemic, scientific updates around Omicron variant

Hassan Isilow   | 27.11.2021
COVID-19 cases spike in South Africa as new variant raises alarm

JOHANNESBURG

After scientists in South Africa detected a new coronavirus variant, the country reported a rise in infections with the positivity rate jumping from the seven-day average of 4.3% to 9.1% on Friday evening, health authorities said.

"About 2,828 new COVID-19 cases have been identified in South Africa, which brings the total number of laboratory-confirmed cases to nearly 3 million. This increase represents a 9.1% positivity rate," the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) said in a statement on Friday night.

The institute also reported 12 more deaths related to COVID-19 on Friday, bringing total fatalities to 89,783.

Gauteng province, which includes the largest city Johannesburg and the capital Pretoria, reported the majority of new cases, contributing 77% of all new infections, followed by the resort provinces of Western Cape accounting for 5% and KwaZulu-Natal for 4%.

This week, South African scientists announced they had discovered the Omicron variant, which has several mutations that may carry the risk of reinfection. The same variant was also detected in neighboring Botswana, as well as Hong Kong, and was first detected on Nov. 12-22, and announced on Thursday.

Scientists said epidemiological data suggest that the sustained increase in COVID-19 cases across Gauteng was possibly fueled by the new variant.

According to an expert in infectious diseases, the new variant was detected in multiple samples tested at both public and private laboratories in Gauteng province.

Several countries around the world have now banned flights from half a dozen Southern African nations, including South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Lesotho, and Eswatini over fears of the new variant.

President Cyril Ramaphosa will convene the National Coronavirus Command Council on Sunday to assess developments in the pandemic, including scientific updates on the newly detected variant.

The National Coronavirus Command Council is one of several structures of the government -- which include the President's Coordinating Council and Cabinet -- where scientific evidence and submissions by different economic and social sectors inform executive decision-making.

Businesses fear another COVID-19 lockdown will have a heavy economic toll, especially as the holiday season approaches.

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