WHO team in South Africa to tackle new variant

Johannesburg, December 3

The WHO has rushed a team of experts to South Africa’s Gauteng province, the epicenter of the new Omicron variant of Covid-19, to ramp up surveillance and contact-tracing efforts as the country grapples with rising cases of infection.

Omicron, which was first identified in South Africa exactly a week ago, now has been detected in at least 24 countries around the world, including India.

“We are deploying a surge team in Gauteng province to support surveillance and contact-tracing,” Dr Salam Gueye, World Health Organisation’s Regional Emergency Director for Africa, said in a media briefing on Thursday.

A team is already working in South Africa on genomic sequencing, he said.

Gauteng province, which is the economic hub of South Africa, has accounted for almost 80 per cent of the infections over the past week.

Some 11,500 new infections were registered on Thursday, a sharp rise from the 8,500 cases confirmed on the previous day. In contrast, daily infections were averaging between 200 and 300 in mid-November in the country, according to health officials.