WHO surge teams rush to South Africa’s Gauteng to counter omicron wave
- WHO has deployed special team’s in South Africa’s Gauteng province
- Gauteng is one of South Africa’s most populous provinces and a financial hub
- WHO is helping South Africa with contact tracing as well as gene sequencing
The World Health Organization (WHO) has deployed ‘surge teams’ in South Africa’s Gauteng province, the place where the omicron coronavirus variant was first detected and the eventual epicenter of its spread. The health agency is lending support to South Africa at a time when the country is seeing a rapid rise in hospitalisations and caseload and burgeoning pressure on its health infrastructure. The WHO is helping South Africa with surveillance and contact tracing.
Salam Gueye, WHO’s regional emergency director for Africa, said that the UN-backed body is also providing technical assistance to the South Africans in order to boost the production of medical oxygen as well as its distribution in both South Africa and Botswana, both places where the omicron variant has been detected.
South Africa reported 11,500 fresh COVID-19 cases in its last daily record, marking a sharp rise from the nearly 8,500 cases reported the previous day. This, again, is an extremely sharp rise from the 200 to 300 cases it was recording only in mid-November before the omicron variant surfaced.
Omicron, a highly-mutative variant of the coronavirus, was detected in South Africa last week and has subsequently approached becoming the dominant strain in the country. The strain was first detected in the Gauteng province, one of the most populous provinces in South Africa, and the country’s financial hub.
The South African National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) has said that nearly 75% of COVID-19 samples are testing positive for the omicron variant. “For the month of November, we had 249 sequences and of those, 183 have been considered to be omicron,” said NICD clinical microbiologist professor Anne von Gottberg.
With regard to other nations responding to the new variant, WHO’s Africa director Dr. Matshidiso Moeti said that countries “must adjust their COVID-19 response and stop a surge in cases from sweeping across Africa and possibly overwhelming already-stretched health facilities.”