2 new omicron covid-19 sub-variants hit South Africa as the nation gets into 5th wave

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Tulio de Oliveira, who runs gene-sequencing institutions in South Africa, says that scientists in the country have discovered two new sublineages of the omicron coronavirus variant.

The lineages have been named BA.4 and BA.5, he said by text message and in a series of tweets.

Still, de Oliveira said, the lineages have not caused a spike in infections in South Africa and have been found in samples from a number of countries, Bloomberg reported.

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Meanwhile, South Africa has administered 34,146,981 vaccine doses with 5,845 administered on Monday.

The figure includes 8,333,395 Johnson & Johnson vaccines and 25,813,586 Pfizer vaccines administered to date in South Africa.

The number of people who were fully vaccinated in the last 24 hours is 1,967, and this includes 867 Johnson & Johnson and 801 Pfizer vaccines.

The NICD noted that 11,154 tests were conducted in the last 24 hours, with 553 new cases, which represents a 5.0% positivity rate.

The Department of Health reported two deaths; of which one occurred in the past 24–48 hrs. Total fatalities are 100,098 to date, it said.

The majority of new cases are from Gauteng Province (50%), followed by Western Cape (18%). KwaZulu-Natal accounted for 17%; Mpumalanga accounted for 5%; Eastern Cape and Limpopo each accounted for 3%.

This comes at a time when South Africa has seen a sharp decline in the number of new coronavirus cases since the Omicron-driven peak in December 2021, but analysts and the government are warning both employers and workers in South Africa of a possible fifth wave of infections in the coming weeks.

Discovery chief executive Adrian Gore has previously indicated a fifth Covid wave in South Africa is likely to be a lot more benign and less severe compared to previous waves, but that the group will still treat it with caution.

Gore said Covid variants appear to emerge in parallel to one another – so there is no reason why the next wave will be less severe than previous ones. However, he noted that the virus is expected to become more benign and endemic as time goes on. Based on these patterns, Gore said a wave could arrive in South Africa at the end of April and early May.

“While it may be more severe, we still think this is unlikely; but it is a risk and, therefore, I think we need to be careful not to take a hard view. The overriding position as a planner or business leader is to expect the best but plan for the worst and make sure you can survive some severity of a wave.”

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