Coronavirus cases have increased by 92% in South Africa in the past 24 hours after scientists in the country raised the alarm over the Omicron variant of Coronavirus. 

Leading virologist Tulio de Oliveira described the surge in infections as ‘scary’ as he urged the public to get vaccinated and use face masks.   

Two weeks have passed since the Omicron variant was introduced to South Africa. It has gone from being a country with low transmission rates, to one that is experiencing rapid growth in the number of confirmed cases.  

According to official data, more than 10% have been confirmed positive in South Africa for Covid. There were 473 cases on Tuesday, which is a 92% increase over the previous day. 

Scientists in India have cautioned that Omicron-positive patients are largely unvaccinated.  

De Oliveira tweeted: “Goodness me!” The alarming rise in cases and the increase in positivity rates in South Africa is frightening. As thousands of scientists across the globe try to better understand this disease, please be safe. 

Coronavirus cases have increased by 92% in South Africa in the past 24 hours after scientists in the country raised the alarm over the Omicron variant of Coronavirus.

More than ten per cent of those tested for Covid across South Africa have tested positive, official data showed, as 4,473 cases were recorded on Tuesday - an increase of 92 per cent compared to the day before

According to official data, more than 10% have been confirmed positive for Covid in South Africa. On Tuesday there were 473 cases, which is a 92% increase over the day prior

Leading virologist Tulio de Oliveira described the surge in infections as 'scary' as he urged the public to get vaccinated and use face masks

Tulio De Oliveira, virologist and leading expert on the subject, described the rise in infections as “scary” and urged people to be vaccinated.

A total of 42,664 tests were conducted in the last 24 hours, with 4,373 new cases reported, data from The National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) in South Africa revealed. 

That is a 92 per cent increase compared to the 2,273 cases recorded on Monday.

A 10.2 percent positivity rate is the number of people who have been tested positive for the virus.   

Although the number of confirmed cases is still low, it has been steadily increasing. After some pretoria student parties, the new surge began. From a few dozen cases per day, to thousands of cases daily, the numbers quickly increased. 

According to the NICD, Covid cases including those of Omicron varient were at their highest in Gauteng, and Pretoria in particular. 

Doctors warn that patients unvaccinated with this new strain of influenza are more likely to be admitted to hospital. In fact, 87% are those who were not jabbed.

‘Most our daily increases at present are from Gauteng, which is about 81 Percent,’ commented Mr Michelle Groome (head of the Division of Public Health Surveillance and Response at the NICD). 

“There’s been a dramatic increase over the past 10 to fourteen days,” she said. 

Waasila jassat of the NICD said that patients who have not been vaccinated are more likely to experience severe symptoms than those who were jabbed. They also tend to be more likely to go to hospital if infected by the Omicron variant.

Dr Jassat said that the virus is affecting children younger than two years old, and that paediatric preparations may be necessary. 

Another South Africa reported 21 Covid fatalities in 24 hours. This brings the death toll at 89.843.   

Meanwhile Dr Waasila Jassat, of the NICD, said that unvaccinated patients are suffering more severe symptoms compared to the jabbed, and were much more likely to end up in hospital if they were infected with the Omicron variant

According to Dr Waasila jassat of the NICD however, unvaccinated patients experience more severe symptoms than the jabbed and are more likely to be admitted to hospital if infected by the Omicron variant.

Experts warn that the first round of infection was among young people. The situation could get worse if it affects unvaccinated older South Africans. In all, 41% of those aged 18 and over are vaccinated — but young people have been particularly slow to step forward.

At least three South African universities — the University of Cape Town, Johannesburg’s University of the Witwatersrand and the University of Free State in Bloemfontein — have announced that vaccinations will be mandatory for students starting next year. Others believe further steps will be required.

‘I believe that South Africa’s decision will be around compulsory vaccination’, said Mosa Moshabela from the University of KwaZulu-Natal.

Demand for the vaccine has been so sluggish that the government recently requested slower deliveries to allow it time to use up its current stock of 19 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Johnson & Johnson shots.

Ramaphosa, the solemn president of South Africa, addressed the nation Sunday and urged everyone to be vaccinated as soon as possible.

He stated, “Tonight I want to urge everyone not vaccinated that they go immediately to their nearest station for vaccination.” “If you know of anyone in your circle that isn’t vaccinated yet, please encourage them. 

South Africa’s Health Department Mark van den Heever urged people to be vaccinated for Covid, as this new strain is rampant. 

“Given this high transmission rate of the variant, we urge all eligible people to get vaccinated, as it’s their best defense against severe illness, even death.

South Africa was the first to report the Omicron variant of the disease to the World Health Organisation (WHO) on November 24. 

Today, however, Dutch health officials revealed that this variant had been in existence for five days prior to South Africa’s alarm.   

The RIVM Health Institute discovered the mutation in Covid from samples that date back to November 19, 23 and 23, respectively.

The WHO stated that South Africa reported the variant first to UN Health Agency on November 24, meaning that the variant was being spread around the globe before anybody even realized it existed.

According to the RIVM, two PCR samples showed an abnormal spike protein. The samples were sent to a lab where further research could be done.

Now, the results are back and have been confirmed for Omicron. 

We don’t know if these cases are related to travelers who have returned from South Africa. Or if they were a result of travels made elsewhere.

It could also raise questions about the source of this new variant, which led to restrictions in travel for certain countries. 

South Africa criticised travel bans. The WHO urged against them, however they have had limited impact.

The variant’s exact nature is unknown. However, the WHO warns that there is a global danger from it. There are early indications suggesting it might be contagious.

According to news agency dpa, authorities in Leipzig in eastern Germany confirmed Tuesday that a man aged 39 had contracted the Omicron variant. He had never been overseas and had not had any contact with anybody who was, they said. 

Leipzig can be found in the eastern German state of Saxony. This region currently boasts one of Germany’s highest total coronavirus infection rates.

Japan and France also announced on Tuesday their first examples of the new version.

French authorities have confirmed that it is present on the French island of Reunion, Indian Ocean. 

Patrick Mavingui (a microbiologist at an island research clinic for infectious illnesses) said that the man who was tested positive for this new variant is a 53year-old male who traveled to Mozambique before stopping in South Africa and returning to Reunion.

The man was taken into quarantine. Mavingui stated that he is experiencing muscle pain and fatigue.

Japan confirmed its first case in the same day that all foreigners were banned as an emergency measure against this variant. It was a Namibian-born visitor. 

According to a government spokesperson, the patient was a 30-year-old man who arrived at Narita Airport on Sunday. He had positive results and was taken into isolation.

On Tuesday, there were still travel bans.

Cambodia refused entry to 10 African countries due to the possibility of a variant. 

Two weeks ago, Cambodia had reopened its borders to allow fully vaccinated traveler.

The WHO has not urged countries to close their borders, but it stressed that scientists continue to search for evidence and suggested that countries need to accelerate vaccines.

WHO stated that there were ‘considerable uncertainties” about the Omicron variant. However, WHO stated that initial evidence indicates that this variant could have mutations that would allow it to evade the immune system and increase its potential spread.

South African doctors report only minor symptoms, despite global concern. 

However, they caution that this is still early. Most of the cases in new patients are younger people. They generally don’t get as sick as those who have been treated with Covid-19 for a long time.

Pfizer CEO says Omicron variant will not cause severe illnesses in people who have been fully vaccinated. UK Covid Infections fall by 6.5% to 39.716 over a week, and hospital admissions are down 6%. There is concern about a new winter outbreak.

MailOnline, Joe Davies

BioNTech’s boss believes that the Omicron variant of the Pfizer shot is not likely to cause serious illness among people who have been fully vaccinated. This comes amid concerns about a new winter outbreak.

Dr Ugur Sahin, co-founder of the Germany-based company and Pfizer’s Covid vaccine manufacturing partner, told The Wall Street Journal on Tuesday that the variant can cause breakthrough infections at a higher rate. 

The variant will likely be destroyed after it has been placed in the body. 

He stated that ‘If the virus is able to escape from antibodies it does so against the immune system. But there are two levels of immunity which protect the body from serious disease: the T-cells.

“Even as an escape version, the virus won’t be able completely evade T-cells.” 

Dr Sahin said that only people who are vaccinated can have the immunity necessary to combat the mutation of the virus. Therefore, he encouraged all to get booster shots whenever possible. 

Experts have expressed concern that Covid vaccines will not work against this variant due to the many mutations in the spike protein it targets. 

BioNTech’s chief said, “Don’t panic. The plan is the same. Speed up administration of the third booster shot.” 

Britain’s Covid crisis shrunk on all three fronts today, official figures show despite eight new cases of the Omicron variant being discovered in England prompting No10 to announce a mammoth new booster drive.

Department of Health bosses posted 39,716 new positive tests over the last 24 hours, down 6.5 per cent on last Tuesday’s figure of 42,484.

It was the fourth straight day that cases fell despite UK Health Security Agency’s announcement it sequenced the supermutant strain in Barnet in London, Liverpool and Sutton.

The number of people dying with the virus also fell 3.6 per cent to 159 today, down from 165 recorded last week.

And hospitalisations dropped to 718 on Friday, the latest date that data is available for. The fourteenth day in which admissions have fallen was Friday, when it fell 6.1%.

The figures come as Boris Johnson pledged to deliver third doses to all adults by the end of January to shield the nation against the new variant. 

The Prime Minister announced he is drafting in the Army again to help deliver the programme and will offer GPs an extra £15 for every injection as he promised to deliver another ‘great British vaccination effort’. 

A £5 bonus will be given to GPs per shot if they do them on Sundays and they will get a £30 premium for shots delivered to the most vulnerable who are unable to leave their homes. To help the mammoth drive, 10,000 additional paid vaccine volunteers are being recruited.

However, it could mean less face to face appointments with GPs for non-Covid patient. Their current rates are about one fifth of the pre-pandemic levels. 

Dr Ugur Sahin, co-founder of the Germany-based company and Pfizer's Covid vaccine manufacturing partner, said on Tuesday that the jab provides people with two levels of protection from the virus

Co-founder and co-founder of Germany-based firm, Dr Ugur Sahin said Tuesday that people are provided with two levels protection against the virus by the jab. 

 

Covid booster: Key points 

A coronavirus booster vaccine will be given to all adults over the age 18 living in the UK by January 31st

Jabs are offered in 5 year age groups. They will start with the older adult and most vulnerable people before they move down.

When people are eligible, the NHS will reach out to them in order for them to make an appointment for a jab.

1 500 community pharmacies will have the ability to give jabs. All will be informed to improve capacity

Additional vaccination hubs in hospitals throughout the country will be opened, while temporary vaccine centers will also open.

There are 30 hospitals that offer jabs, with many others following suit.

There will nearly 3,000 UK sites offering vaccines.

For the NHS, at most 400 military personnel will deploy to support volunteers and staff to administer jabs. 

– The UK is the only country that has already delivered 18 million boosters, more than China or the US.  

This is equivalent to 27.2 percent of the entire UK population. 53million are expected to be eligible in the future, while 22m people are currently eligible.

 Community pharmacists will be incentivised to deliver more jabs, with the payment for standard delivery of a vaccination increased to £15 a shot.

– An extra £5 per shot will be offered to pharmacists if they work on Sundays

– A £30 premium will be offered to pharmacists for vaccinations delivered to people who are housebound

To free up time for clinicians, the Care Quality Commission will keep a halt on general practice routine inspections.  

In order to make it easier for people to access smaller facilities, the NHS has proposed eliminating the waiting time of 15 minutes after vaccination.   

– The NHS is recruiting for up to 10,000 new paid vaccinator roles as well as for an army of ‘tens of thousands’ of new volunteers to help with the drive       

Other coronavirus developments are also happening today 

  • After health professionals suggested that people should limit their socializing over Christmas, Mr Johnson & Mr Javid sought to dispel any fears of hospitality.
  • The Prime Minister said he does not agree with Dr Jenny Harries, who urged people not to socialise if they do not need to in the run-up to Christmas, and was asked if Christmas parties should be cancelled;
  • Because Omicron’s case numbers are low, he said that a repeat of this ‘pingdemic” is unlikely to occur.
  • Johnson claimed that Johnson believed it “extremely unlikely”, that another lockdown was required. However, he did not rule out the possibility. 
  • The Prime Minister stated that the government does not wish people to cancel Christmas parties, nativity plays or other festive events.
  • Amanda Pritchard, chief executive of NHS England, stated that she wanted to increase the capacity for hospitals and GPs to give more booster jabs. 
  • Ms Pritchard indicated that the team was looking at “how to reduce additional burdens on doctors to administer boosters”. 

Scientists have cautioned that the boosters will probably not give the same level of protection against  Omicron as they do against Delta because the new strain is so evolved. 

However, No10 believes that the increase in immunity will provide some protection from the variant. 

Moderna warned today that a ‘material drop’ in the effectiveness of existing vaccines, particularly against infection.

Pfizer however stated that the vaccines are expected to offer high levels of protection against both hospitalisations and deaths. Omicron-specific booster shot are being developed by both companies and will be made available in the middle of 2022. 

Mr Johnson told the Downing Street briefing that new vaccination centres will be ‘popping up like Christmas trees’ to get boosters in arms over the coming months, following reports that dozens of elderly and vulnerable around the country were struggling to get their jabs before the booster drive was expanded. 

He stated that ‘proportional’ regulations, including mandatory face masks for public transport as well as in shops, nail salons, and hairdressers were brought in in order to purchase time so scientists could ‘crack Omicron codes’. These restrictions would no longer be necessary.  

However, there is concern about the ability of the booster drive to meet the demand. There was already a 7million-person backlog before the program was extended.

Just 18million of the 25 million Britons who are over 40 years old were eligible to apply for one yesterday.

As long as the third dose of their last dose has not expired, this new guidance will allow 53 million eligible people to be eligible.

An additional 6.9million individuals over 40 years old were automatically made eligible by the new guidelines. This was in addition to 7million Britons aged between 18-39. Today, there are 40 million eligible people.  

Johnson spoke at the Downing Street Press Conference tonight, stating that “now is the right time to launch another major British vaccine effort.” It’s been done before, and it will be repeated again. Let’s give this virus another chance.  

Boris Johnson today called on all Britons aged 18 and over to come forward for their booster by the end of January as the best line of defence against the new Omicron supermutant Covid variant

Boris Johnson, today appealed to all Britons over 18 to apply for their booster prior the 31 January. This is in order of defense against Omicron supermutant Covid.

Vaccine-makers Moderna and Pfizer are already working on Covid vaccines that could tackle the Omicron strain, if it poses a problem for the current crop of vaccines, but they won't be ready until mid-2022

Moderna and Pfizer have been working together on Covid vaccines for Omicron, which could be used to treat the problem. But they will not be available until around mid-2022.

The Botswana variant has around 50 mutations and more than 30 of them are on the spike protein. The current crop of vaccines trigger the body to recognise the version of the spike protein from older versions of the virus. But the mutations may make the spike protein look so different that the body's immune system struggles to recognise it and fight it off. And three of the spike mutations (H665Y, N679K, P681H) help it enter the body's cells more easily. Meanwhile, it is missing a membrane protein (NSP6) which was seen in earlier iterations of the virus, which experts think could make it more infectious. And it has two mutations (R203K and G204R) that have been present in all variants of concern so far and have been linked with infectiousness

Botswana has approximately 50 variants. More than 30 mutations are on spike protein. The body recognizes the current vaccine as the same version of the spike protein in older viruses. However, the changes may change the appearance of the spike protein so that the immune system is unable to fight off the virus. It can also enter your cells easier thanks to three spike mutations: H665Y (N679K), P681H (P681H). Experts believe it could be more contagious because it lacks a membrane protein (NSP6), as was the case in previous iterations. Two mutations (R203K, G204R) have been identified in the virus. These two mutations have been found in all known variants and are associated with infectiousness. 

Dr Angelique Coetzee, chair of the South African Medical Association and the first person to spot the new variant in a patient, said her patients infected with Omicron reported different and much milder symptoms, including tiredness, muscle aches, a sore head and a dry cough. But none reported the tell-tale symptoms of a loss of smell or taste or breathing difficulties

Chair of South African Medical Association, Dr Angelique Coetzee said that patients with Omicron were experiencing milder and more subtle symptoms. These included tiredness, headaches, and muscle aches. None of the symptoms, such as loss of taste or smell, or difficulty breathing were reported by any of these patients. 

DON’T cancel Christmas parties! Boris and Saj attempt to calm your fears about hospitality 

Boris Johnson today and Sajid javid today attempted to dispel hospitality worries after doctors suggested that it would be sensible to reduce socializing over Christmas.

As he pledged to throw everything at the Omicron coronavirus variant booster campaign, the Prime Minister advised people to not cancel their Christmas celebrations or schools nativity plays.

The President promised everyone who was eligible that they would get a vaccination by January 31st. At least 400 military personnel will be helping to support the NHS.

Johnson refused to accept a request from a top health official for socializing restrictions in the days leading up to Christmas. Instead, Johnson insisted that he had put into place a series of ‘balanced measures to deal with the potential threat presented by the new variant.

Sajid Javid, UK Health Secretary, said Omicron had now reached 22 cases. “We have to be realistic” that the strain is likely to spread within the UK.  

To ensure a Merry Christmas, he said that everyone should be vaccinated.

According to Mr. Javid, “What we are seeing lately has brought back the strains of last winter.” Although we don’t know what the future holds, there is one advantage we do have that was not available back then. It’s our vaccine program, which has done so much to prevent this virus from spreading.

“But, these defenses won’t keep us safe unless we actually use them. It is a national task and each person has a responsibility.

“If you want the best Christmas for your loved ones, it is best to get involved, take on the role of protector, and be ready when the opportunity arises.

Since September’s launch, the booster rollout has faced many problems, raising concerns over its ability to handle increased capacity.

According to GPs, they have too many other things to do than deal with the record non-Covid Care backlogs that were created during the pandemic. Furthermore, figures suggest there are now three times fewer mass vaccination centers giving out boosters as compared to when the original vaccine was released.

Patients who are vulnerable have reported that they had to wait for weeks before getting a booster appointment. This is because many are administered at local pharmacies, which are limited in staffing and operate during restricted hours.  

Mr Johnson spoke out amid grave concerns in the NHS about his 500,000 jabs a day target to outpace Omicron — as ministers lined up GPs to do the work but doctors claimed they are ‘burnt out’ and warned more face-to-face appointments with patients will have to go if they are expected to help.    

Today the Health Service Journal reported that from December 1, doctors will receive £15 for each jab given from Monday to Saturday – up from £12.58. This will reach £20 for Sunday and Bank Holiday vaccinations until the end of January. Also, the pay for jabs at care homes or houses will rise.

One NHS chief executive said getting GPs to lead the surge was ‘a very big ask, on top of many other very big asks’, adding it would be extremely difficult to reach the 3.5million rate due to a lack of medics, volunteers and facilities after a third of vaccination centres closed this summer.

A GP practice manager tweeted: ‘Cash won’t make much difference, it’s the workload & workforce that’s the problem. This is not about the people who call patients and organise rotas. It’s also the back room staff. 

They will also call back soldiers. Some soldiers are helping to deliver the vaccine in Scotland, but none in England. They were also responsible for distributing the vaccines, and setting up centres. 

This winter, thousands more of retired nurses and doctors who have helped in the last 12 months and volunteers will be required. 

Johnson spoke at the Downing Street press conference and stated that although we have already completed almost 18million boosters in the UK, there are millions of more needed to protect those most vulnerable.

“Then we’ll rapidly move down the cohorts. We want to work together with devolved authorities to boost capacity across the entire United Kingdom up to the level we reached in the previous vaccine effort.

“We will be doing everything to make sure that every person eligible receives that booster in less than two months.