The World Well being Organisation (WHO) is about to deploy a surge workforce to South Africa to assist cope with the brand new Omicron COVID variant outbreak.
The workforce might be despatched to Gauteng province to assist with surveillance and speak to tracing as specialists warned the brand new variant may very well be inflicting a rise in COVID reinfections throughout the nation.
WHO regional emergency director for Africa, Salam Gueye, additionally mentioned it was offering technical help to spice up the manufacturing and distribution of medical oxygen in Botswana – one other nation the place Omicron has been detected.
The variant is considered inflicting extra reinfections in South Africa than the Beta and Delta variants did, South African Professor Anne von Gottberg warned.
A reinfection is classed as somebody who exams constructive for COVID not less than 90 days after a earlier an infection.
Requested precisely what number of extra reinfections are being brought on by Omicron, the professor mentioned it’s “tough to quantify”.
Barry Schoub, chair of the South African authorities’s committee on COVID vaccines, instructed Sky Information preliminary indicators have been “excellent news”.
He mentioned: “Definitely, at this stage, the information does look to be promising – the nice majority of the breakthrough an infection (in different phrases, people which have had an infection regardless of vaccination) is delicate.
“Our hospital surveillance is exhibiting a bit little bit of an uptick however definitely nothing as dramatic as we have seen within the earlier waves.
“We have solely had this virus round for simply over per week so I believe we actually want to observe this house.”
When requested in regards to the UK’s response to the Omicron variant, Mr Schoub mentioned: “I believe it is an over-reaction, I believe it is the unsuitable response.
“It is a punitive measure in opposition to the financial system of South Africa – it may be a disincentive, in reality, for nations to really report their variants as a result of it is to their drawback.”
“I believe that is a foul factor. I believe we do must have openness, we do must have transparency and science however any sort of response must be primarily based on scientific proof, not on political motives,” he added.
Professor von Gottberg mentioned that South Africa has excessive seroprevalence – that means many individuals have already contracted COVID – however early knowledge suggests “earlier an infection doesn’t present them with safety from an infection attributable to Omicron”.
She added that it’s “early days” within the evaluation of the brand new variant and mentioned that “all of us want to watch the info as quickly as they arrive out”.
Evaluation by Thomas Moore, science correspondent
This was a extra optimistic evaluation of the Omicron risk.
Extra folks than anticipated are being reinfected in South Africa as the brand new variant quickly spreads. However their signs are much less extreme.
It is early days in fact, however scientists have been puzzling over the seemingly impact of Omicron’s constellation of mutations.
Many had predicted that antibodies from a earlier an infection or vaccination might not totally shield in opposition to the virus.
And it appears that’s the case.
In line with Professor Anne von Gottberg, from the Nationwide Institute for Communicable Ailments, the variety of reinfections within the present surge is larger than within the earlier wave brought on by Delta.
She instructed a information briefing by the World Well being Organisation that Omicron does not appear to be any extra contagious than Delta.
However the inhabitants is extra inclined, despite the fact that antibody ranges from vaccination and former waves of COVID are excessive.
However this is the excellent news.
Individuals who have been beforehand contaminated are growing much less extreme illness. And he or she mentioned that will additionally maintain true for individuals who have been vaccinated.
So whereas our antibodies might not cease an infection, they could be ok to stop hospitalisation and dying.
We’d like a pair extra weeks of knowledge to make sure, but when it is confirmed then the probabilities of one other lockdown would appear to recede.
Regardless of this, she mentioned scientists stay hopeful there’ll nonetheless be safety in opposition to severe sickness and dying.
“We have to discuss and brainstorm about what is occurring, have the specialists interrogate the info, and I am hoping that we work rapidly,” she mentioned.
“Shortly to know the variant, and rapidly to open up borders once more and permit for folks to maneuver between nations.”
The WHO added that the majority African nations have sufficient vaccine doses to answer a surge in demand for folks eager to get the jab.