South Africa seeing a big jump in Covid cases as a fifth wave surges

The National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) recorded 9,757 new Covid-19 cases in South Africa on Thursday (5 May), representing a 25.9% positivity rate.

The majority of new cases were reported in Gauteng (44%) followed by KwaZulu-Natal (24%). There has been an increase of 135 hospital admissions in the past 24 hours, while 64 deaths were reported – seven of which occurred in the previous 24 to 48 hours.

Scientists in South Africa and Botswana discovered Omicron late last year and South Africa was the first country to experience a major surge of infections as a result of the variant. Now BA.4 and BA.5, two omicron sub-variants, are driving a new spike in cases in South Africa.

Collectively, the percentage of sequences assigned to BA.4 and BA.5 have increased from fewer than 1% of cases in January 2022 to more than 50% in April 2022. Both lineages have been detected in countries outside South Africa, such as the USA, UK, and Botswana. These lineages are being closely monitored and data are being uploaded regularly, the NICD said.

“BA.4 and BA.5 are still classified as lineages of the Omicron variant, and so if they become dominant, Omicron will still be the dominant variant in South Africa. BA.4 and BA.5 have increased in prevalence in SA, and as of 29 April 2022, together make up the majority of genomes.”

The group added that there have been no concerning new symptoms detected as yet and that vaccinations will still be effective against the new lineages.

“As the BA.4 and BA.5 lineages have some different mutations to other Omicron lineages it is possible that there may be some immune escape leading to an increase in the number of Covid-19 cases,” it said.

“However, South Africa has a high immunity due to previous infection and vaccination, which has been shown to protect against the risk of developing severe Covid-19 disease. There is currently no indication that this will change with BA.4/BA.5, however, the situation will continue to be monitored closely.”

Read: What South Africa’s new Covid rules mean for masks at work

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South Africa seeing a big jump in Covid cases as a fifth wave surges