New Omicron variant found in Joburg

A new Omicron variant found in wastewater is not necessarily dangerous and might not cause a fifth wave, according to an expert.

The National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) has detected a new sub-variant, called BA.4, of Omicron in wastewater in south western Johannesburg.

This comes after a rise in new Covid-19 cases in South Africa, with 2,650 cases and seven deaths recorded on Monday.

Speaking to 702 on Tuesday morning, executive director of NICD, Professor Adrian Puren, said they are currently conducting studies to determine the effectiveness of vaccines on the sub-variants.

With the positive cases on the rise causing panic of a looming fifth wave, Puren said South Africa has not officially entered the fifth wave yet but is experiencing a resurgence.

“There is no official declaration, I would say we are in what we call a resurgence, a marked increase in the number of cases,” said Puren.

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He said the wastewater analysis is a critical indicator of transmission in communities.

“The National Genomics of Laboratories are looking at variants that are on the rise and what we noticed is that the Omicron 2 variant that was dominant in the last month or two could be overtaken by two sub-variants – BA.4 and BA.5 – which are thought to be highly transmissible,” said Puren.

Speaking about the rise in infections, the Department of Health spokesperson Foster Mohale warned unvaccinated South Africans to get the jab.

Puren also spoke about the issue of the slow vaccination rate in the country, saying that they are trying different strategies to persuade South Africans to get the shots.

“It is very difficult, we are trying through different strategies to attract people to vaccinate, trying to reassure them that this is more serious than influenza,” Puren said.

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