South Africa: The Omicron Variant - What Now for South Africa?

OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg (file photo).

The three most important things that can be done now are to be vaccinated, to be vaccinated, and to be vaccinated, especially if one is older than 50, has a comorbidity, or a compromised immune system.

On Thursday, November 25, the South Africa Department of Health, in conjunction with the National Institute for Communicable Disease and the Africa Health Research Institute, held a news conference to announce and describe a newly identified SARS-CoV-2 variant that had quickly become dominant in Gauteng, South Africa's most populous province, which is home to Johannesburg.

Although there are still relatively few cases, about 70% of those diagnosed in the prior few days appeared to be due to this newly identified variant. The prominence of this variant suggests that it is more transmissible than the currently dominant Delta variant. Also worryingly, it has a large constellation of mutations relative to earlier published sequences of SARS-CoV-2 (the "parental" variant), more numerous than any variant noted before that has been able to expand noticeably.

Some of these mutations are associated with the ability to partially evade antibody responses that have been induced by the parental variant or vaccines. This immediately drew notice. Many countries, including the UK,...

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