Omicron COVID variant likely present in all provinces, MPs told

Deputy Health Minister Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo and infectious diseases specialists briefed Parliament’s Health Committee on Wednesday night about the new variant and the country's preparations to deal with the fourth wave of infections.

FILE: A health worker conducts a COVID-19 coronavirus molecular test in Parkview, Johannesburg, on 22 October 2020. Picture: LUCA SOLA/AFP

CAPE TOWN - The Health Department said that the Omicron coronavirus variant was likely present in all provinces and would overtake the Delta variant.

The department also said that a number of children had been infected in Tshwane in Gauteng, the current epicentre of infections.

Deputy Health Minister Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo and infectious diseases specialists briefed Parliament’s Health Committee on Wednesday night about the new variant and the country's preparations to deal with the fourth wave of infections.

Department officials said that the new variant had likely spread to all provinces.

PCR testing had also indicated that cases were increasing nationwide.

Infectious diseases specialist, Prof Richard Lessells: "So we fully expect that we’re going to find this Omicron variant in all the provinces and it looks very likely it’s going to take over from the Delta that was anyway spreading at low levels."

Dr Michelle Groome of the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) said that there would be less transmission if people got vaccinated.

"As more and more people are vaccinated and get natural immunity, there will be less transmission of the virus and less development of these mutations and variants," Groome said.

She said that new infections seemed to be limited to younger age groups.