The director of the South African infectious disease agency said the Omicron variant could be the most powerful candidate for the Corona variant, even replacing the Delta variant, which is known to spread very quickly and cause a massive spike in COVID-19 cases. The discovery of Omicron has set a global alarm. Countries are restricting travel from South Africa because they fear the new variant could spread quickly, even in vaccinated populations.
The World Health Organization (WHO) previously said the Omicron variant had a high risk of causing a spike in COVID-19 infections.
"We thought what would beat the Delta variant? That's always been a question, at least in terms of transmission.... Maybe this particular variant is the variant (which can beat Delta)," said Adrian Puren, acting executive director of the National Institute for African Infectious Diseases. South (NICD), quoted from Reuters, Wednesday (1/12/2021).
If the Omicron variant proves to be more contagious than the Delta variant, the risk is that there will be a sharp spike in infections that will put pressure on hospitals.
Also read: Record! Here are the Symptoms of the Omicron Variant in COVID-19 Patients Puren emphasized that within four weeks, scientists should know the level of the Omicron variant's ability to evade immunity generated by vaccines or natural COVID-19 infection. This is also related to the possibility that clinical symptoms in COVID-19 patients with the Omicron variant are more severe than other Corona variants.
So far, anecdotal reports by doctors who have treated South African COVID-19 patients suggest infections caused by the Omicron variant cause relatively mild symptoms, such as dry cough, fever and night sweats.
According to Puren, it is still too early to confirm that Omicron will replace the Delta variant in South Africa. The reason, local scientists have only produced 87 sequences of Omicron variants so far.
It is known, the Delta variant triggered the third wave of COVID-19 in South Africa with a peak of more than 26,000 cases per day in early July 2021.
On the other hand, Omicron is expected to trigger the fourth wave. Seeing daily cases hit 2,270 on Monday, infections of the Omicron variant are predicted to hit 10,000 by the end of the week.