Local authorities on alert as new, infectious Omicron strains circulate

Health Minister Dr Frank Anthony

Health Minister, Dr Frank Anthony says Government will be on alert to monitor the progress of two new Omicron variants, which have proven highly infectious and capable of evading immunity against COVID.

The two new Omicron variants have been the cause of increased infections in South Africa, with cases already reported in the United States. The BA.4 and BA.5 strains have been shown to evade vaccines and immunity from previous infections.

“One thing that is coming out is that even if you’ve had an infection in the past with Omicron, the BA.4 and BA.5 seem to be evading your immune response. If you had a previous infection, even with vaccination, it can also evade those defences. What they’re noticing is that if you’re up to date with your vaccines, then more than likely you will have a milder form of the infection,” the Minister shared in Tuesday’s COVID update.

South African authorities on Friday said that the country would possibly enter its fifth COVID-19 wave owing to the rise of the BA.4 and BA.5 variants. Infections are rising, and so are hospitalisation figures.

Vaccination statistics here as of Tuesday show 440,451 first doses and 339,754 second doses have been administered across the adult population. This is approximately 85.9 per cent and 66.2 per cent respectively. Booster doses stand at 62,649.

Meanwhile, second doses stand at 25,289 or 34.7 per cent for the adolescent category.

Dr Anthony has reiterated, “We have seen a slowdown in the 12 to 17 age group. We think it can be attributed to a number of factors, which include parents not giving permission, not having ready access to children and so forth. We think there is an opportunity with schools now opened that we’ll be able to reach a lot more children. We’ll be able to provide them with letters that they can take to their parents to get permission.”