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Africa's Quick Detection of Omicron Covid-19 Variant 'Bought World Time': WHO

The WHO says South Africa has confirmed 172 cases of omicron and Botswana 19.(Image: REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration)

The WHO says South Africa has confirmed 172 cases of omicron and Botswana 19.(Image: REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration)

Dr. Matshidiso Moeti said Thursday that we have a window of opportunity but must act quickly and ramp up detection and prevention measures.

The World Health Organization's Africa director says quick detection and reporting of the new omicron variant of the coronavirus by Botswana and South Africa have bought the world time as nations are scramble to stop it from spreading. Dr. Matshidiso Moeti said Thursday that we have a window of opportunity but must act quickly and ramp up detection and prevention measures.

Much remains unknown about the new variant, including whether it is more contagious, as some health authorities suspect, whether it makes people more seriously ill, and whether it can thwart vaccines. Moeti says countries must adjust their COVID-19 response and stop a surge in cases from sweeping across Africa and possibly overwhelming already-stretched health facilities.

Africa Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention Director John Nkengasong told reporters at a separate briefing that the continent recorded 52,300 new COVID-19 cases compared to the previous week — a 105% increase. He says about 31, 000 of the cases were reported in South Africa while the southern Africa region as a whole recorded a 153% increase in November.

The WHO says South Africa has confirmed 172 cases of omicron and Botswana 19. Ghana and Nigeria in West Africa are the other African countries that have recorded cases of the new variant. Nkengasong says that while authorities are deeply concerned by the rising numbers we are not worried that the situation cannot be managed.

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He says vaccines are beginning to flow into the continent in a very predictable and steady manner although there is concern that countries are not picking up these vaccines. He says that while little is yet known about how effective current vaccines are against omicron, anything in your body is better than nothing. We totally don't have a choice - we have to use vaccines.

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first published:December 02, 2021, 23:31 IST