JOHANNESBURG: The Omicron Covid-19 variant appears able to get around some immunity but vaccines should still offer protection against severe disease, according to the latest data from South Africa where it is fast overtaking Delta to become the dominant variant.
Omicron, which has raised global fears of a surge in infections, was first detected in southern Africa last week and has prompted governments across continents to impose travel restrictions and take other measures to try and contain it.
The new variant has been detected in five out of nine South African provinces and was likely to be present all over the country, the latest official report showed on Wednesday.
Omicron accounted for 74 per cent of the 249 virus genomes sequenced in South Africa in November, according to the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD), which is collecting data as part of a wider national network for genomic surveillance.
South Africa conducts genome sequencing on only a small proportion of total samples collected each week. The NICD did not give a total number of confirmed cases of Omicron infection.
“(The) mutation profile and epidemiological picture suggests Omicron is able to get around some of our immune protection (to cause infection) but the protection against severe disease and death from vaccines should be less affected,” the latest report from the surveillance network said.