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South Africa hit by 4th wave of COVID-19 caused by Omicron

The Omicron variant is propelling a fourth wave of COVID-19 infections in South Africa, Health Minister Joe Phaahla said on Friday.

The variation, which has been found in seven of the country’s nine regions, has sparked global concern about an outbreak of infections.

It was discovered in southern Africa last month, prompting governments on other continents to adopt travel restrictions and other steps to combat it.

Phaahla stated at a press conference that he hoped the variation could be controlled without causing too many deaths.

He advised South Africans to be fully vaccinated, saying the country could handle the fourth wave without imposing tougher lockdown restrictions over the holidays.

“We can still manage this in a manner where the government doesn’t have to invoke serious restrictions over the next few days if we all just do our basic duties of the safety measures, but also if more and more of us who are eligible … approach their nearest vaccination sites,” Phaahla said.

Top scientist Michelle Groome of South Africa’s National Institute for Communicable Diseases said at the briefing the country was facing an “unprecedented rise” in infections over a short time due to Omicron.

The infections were also moving from the younger age cohort into older people, she said.

It was important for surge preparedness to include paediatric beds and staff as there have been increased admissions among children under four, she said.

Omicron has been listed as a “variant of concern” by the WHO and scientists are still gathering data to establish how contagious Omicron is, and the severity of the illness it causes.

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