Anne von Gottberg, a microbiologist from the National Institute of Infectious Diseases, said South Africa is seeing an increase in coronavirus reinfection in patients with the Omicron variant.
“Infections were previously used to protect against [the] Delta [coronavirus variant] but now with Omicron, that doesn’t seem to be the case,” Gottberg said during a WHO Africa briefing.
“We tracked these reinfections for Beta [variant] and for the Delta wave, and we don’t see an increase in re-infections that are higher and higher than what we would expect when the force of infection changes, when the wave stops. However, we are seeing an increase in Omicrons,” explained Gottberg.
However, data from South Africa suggest reinfection may be less severe, Gottberg added. “We believe, I think a lot, that the re-filtering in our data, and hopefully from South Africa, that disease will be less severe,” says Gottberg.
“And that’s what we’re trying to demonstrate and monitor very carefully in South Africa. And the same goes for people who have been vaccinated,” she added.
Gottberg said South Africa is starting a fourth wave of coronavirus with cases in the country increasing at a “rapid rate”, especially in Gauteng province, the country’s most populous.
End 8,000 new daily cases Gottberg said were detected in the country on Wednesday, with scientists hoping cases will increased to 10,000 a day. “We believe the number of cases will increase exponentially in all provinces in the country,” she said.
Only a limited number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the country are being sequenced, Gottberg explained. Of the 249 cases identified in November, 183 were confirmed as Omicron variants, or 70-75% according to Gottberg.
“Looks like there was a Omicron’s advantage in the country. And Omicron has been identified through sequencing in at least five of our provinces (that is) sequencing data,” she told reporters.
The World Health Organization also announced that it will deploy a surgical team to Gauteng province to help with surveillance, sequencing and contact tracing.