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- New Covid-19 variant (Omicron) detected in South Africa
New Covid-19 variant (Omicron) detected in South Africa
Those four people that have been tested positive for the Omicron variant in Botswana were all fully vaccinated!
Early evidence suggests Omicron has a higher re-infection risk.
The World Health Organization (WHO) said on Friday that the new variant was being considered as "of concern".
Several cases have been identified in Europe, including two in the UK and one in Belgium. Single suspected cases were also found in Germany and the Czech republic.
The new variant has also been detected in Botswana, Hong Kong and Israel.
Moderna President Stephen Hoge said he believes booster shots carrying genes specifically targeting mutations in the newly-discovered Omicron variant would be the quickest way to address any anticipated reductions in vaccine efficacy it may cause.
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"The Omicron-specific boosters, just realistically, are not before March and maybe more in the second quarter," Hoge said, unless the FDA changes its guidance for what data would be needed for authorization.
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The White House renewed its push on Thursday for more jabs - including booster doses - and more testing amid the rapid global spread of Omicron.
The variant - which has now been found in at least 23 countries - was first reported in California on Wednesday.
Speaking to the BBC, Susan Hopkins, the chief medical adviser of the UK Health Security Agency, said hospitals were diagnosing Omicron in an increasing number of people coming into emergency departments and that the numbers in hospital were expected to increase.
No deaths have been reported so far from Omicron, although it is just over two weeks since the variant was first detected in the UK, and there is normally a time lag of three to four weeks between infection and death, should that happen. “I think it’s too early to make any assumption at this point in time,” Hopkins said.
Hopkins said it was “inevitable that we’re going to see a big wave of infections” but that it was not yet clear how many of these cases would be severe.
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A major unknown is the extent to which vaccines will protect against more serious disease.
Dr Angelique Coetzee, chair of the South African Medical Association, said there has been an overreaction to the mutation.
"The hype that's been created currently out there in the media and worldwide doesn't correlate with the clinical picture. And it doesn't warrant to just cut us off from any travelling and ban South Africa, as if we are the variants in the whole process, it should not be like that.
"She also told the Andrew Marr programme that she first encountered the variant in a man in his early 30s who presented with tiredness and a mild headache, but none of the usual coronavirus symptoms.
South Africa has lifted overnight curfew rules, with officials saying the country may have passed the peak of its fourth wave of Covid-19 infections.
A government statement said the Omicron variant, while highly transmissible, had seen lower hospitalisation rates than previous waves.
There had been a marginal increase in the number of deaths, it added.
The variant - first reported by South Africa last month - is spreading fast elsewhere leading to widespread curbs.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned of a "tsunami" of infections from Delta and Omicron variants that could overwhelm health systems.
But in South Africa, a statement released after a special cabinet meeting said cases and hospital admission rates had dropped in almost all provinces across the country.
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