JOHANNESBURG (AP) The rapid rise in COVID-19 cases in South Africa attributed to the new omicron variant is resulting in mostly mild symptoms, doctors say.
We have seen a sharp increase in cases in the last 10 days. “So far they have been mostly very mild cases, with patients having flu-like symptoms: dry cough, fever, night sweats, a lot of body aches,” said Dr. Unben Pillay, a general practitioner in Gauteng province. where 81% of new cases were reported.
Most of these patients have been treated at home, Pillay said at an online press conference Monday. Vaccinated people tend to do much better. We have not seen a huge increase in hospitalizations, but it is still early. Hospital admissions often come days after an increase in confirmed cases.
Most new cases in South Africa have been between people in their 20s and 30s and doctors note that the age group generally has milder symptoms of COVID-19 in each case. They warn that older people infected by the new variant may have more severe symptoms.
Learning more about the omicron variant is important as nations around the world called on Monday to keep the new variant with travel bans and further restrictions, although it remains unclear what the variant means for the COVID-19 pandemic.
Japan announced it would suspend entry for all foreign visitors, as new cases of the variant identified days ago by researchers in South Africa surfaced as far as Hong Kong, Australia and Portugal. Portuguese authorities were investigating whether some infections may have been among the first reported cases of local transmission of the variant outside South Africa.
South Africa has seen its seven-day average of new cases over the past two weeks rise from about 200 a day to more than 2,000.
Omicron appears to be more transmissible than previous variants and the increase in South Africa could bring the daily number of new cases to 10,000 by the end of the week, infectious disease specialist Salim Abdool Karim told the conference.
Our biggest challenge will be to stop super-spreading events, especially indoors, he said, suggesting that it may be necessary to limit indoor gatherings for those who are vaccinated.
The hotspot for new growth is the Gauteng Tshwane metropolitan area, including the capital, Pretoria. The vast majority of those hospitalized there were unvaccinated people, said Waasila Jassat of the National Institute on Communicable Diseases.
Of the recent hospitalizations, 87% have been unvaccinated, 13% have been vaccinated, Jassat said of the 455 hospital admissions in the Tshwane area in the past two weeks.
Vaccination also seems to have helped people avoid infection, she said.
Of South Africa’s 60 million people, 16.5 million are vaccinated and the number of fully vaccinated who test positive is very small, said Nicholas Crisp, the acting director general of the health department. “It’s a very small number of those people who tested positive. It’s a minute compared to unvaccinated people.
To combat the increase in COVID-19 cases attributed to the omicron variant, South Africa is seeking vaccinations and weighing in on making vaccines mandatory to enter inland areas, the health minister said on Monday.
The government is not planning to impose centralized mandates on vaccines, but will support businesses and organizations seeking vaccination evidence to enter indoors, Health Minister Joe Phaahla told reporters.
The government is considering seeking vaccines for health workers, including those working in state hospitals, he said.
We are looking at concrete proposals on how to address vaccine mandates in the workplace and those in health care, Phaahla said.
Several African countries, including Angola, Egypt, Mauritius, and Rwanda, have joined the group of nations that have imposed travel restrictions on South Africa and other countries in South Africa.
It is very unfortunate, very unfortunate and I can even say sad to talk about travel restrictions imposed by another African country, said Clayson Monyela, spokeswoman for the Department of International Affairs and Cooperation. He called the decisions unjustified and unjustified because they are not based on science,
Follow all the AP pandemic stories at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic.
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