A healthcare worker conducts a PCR Covid-19 test at the Lancet laboratory in Johannesburg on November 30, 2021.
Emmanuel Croset | AFP | Getty Images
After becoming the, South Africa is bracing for a fourth wave of infections and vaccine mandates are being considered by the government.
South African scientists last week detected the heavily-mutated variant, since designated a, which has now been . Dutch authorities say omicron was already present in the Netherlands prior to South Africa reporting it to the WHO, prompting questions over how widely the variant could have already spread.
Omicron is rapidly becoming the dominant variant on South Africa, with the country’s National Institute for Communicable Diseases saying it is seeing an “exponential increase in infections,” with 74% of virus genomes sequenced in the last month belonging to the new variant.
Cases increased from a weekly average of 300 two weeks ago to 1,000 per day last week. On Wednesday, the country recorded 8,561 cases.
In a televised address on Sunday, President Cyril Ramaphosa said epidemiologists and disease modelers were warning that South Africa should expect a fourth wave of Covid-19 in early December, with the variant now found in all of the country’s provinces.
Ramaphosa noted that more than 25 million vaccine doses have been administered since May, with around 36% of adults now fully vaccinated. However, Health Minister Joe Phaahla said the daily vaccination rate had fallen below 130,000 last week, well shy of the government’s 300,000 per day inoculation target.
Ramaphosa has lambasted wealthy nations for their failure to ensure equal access to vaccines, and criticized the numerous countries thatand neighboring countries following the announcement of the new variant. The president said such bans were unjustified and “unfairly discriminate against our country and our Southern African sister countries.”
Daily Covid-19 cases in South Africa spike as omicron becomes the dominant variant in the country.
His comments have since been echoed by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who accused countries imposing travel bans on the region of “travel apartheid.”
“What is unacceptable is to have one part of the world, that is one of the most vulnerable parts of the world economy, condemned to a lockout when they were the ones that revealed the existence of a new variant that, by the way, already existed in other parts of the world, including in Europe,” Guterres said on Wednesday.
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