Scientists warn MPs Omicron is spreading rapidly
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Scientists have warned that the Omnicron variant was beginning to spread across the country after more cases were reported in Gauteng.
However, they told Parliament’s portfolio committee on health on Wednesday evening that there were more cases now reported in KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo, the Western Cape, Eastern Cape and other provinces.
Infectious disease specialist Richard Lessells told the Parliamentarians that they were busy monitoring the situation.
But they were concerned about those people who were not vaccinated.
The government has been trying to ramp up the vaccination programme and President Cyril Ramaphosa called for more people to get the jabs.
Lessells said the variant was spreading rapidly and it needed to be monitored.
“The one thing we wanted to understand is how transmissible this variant is. We need to understand what effect does this variant have on vaccine protection and here the key thing is to understand is that although we think these mutations may have an effect on neutralising antibodies, we think that they will have much less effect on some of the other arms of the immune system and particularly the T-cells and these are the cells that help to prevent the severe disease and hospitalisation and death.
“That is why we say to you although we think this variant may have worked a way around to get some of the vaccine protection to cause infections we think it will be much less able to get around protection against severe disease,” said Lessells.
Omicron was a variant where they were beginning to see reinfections in some of the cases. In parts of the Gauteng they have seen this.
“We are already seeing in the data more reinfections than we have seen previously. That means somebody who has had an infection before is now infected again with this Omicron variant. That is something we need to confirm with more information,” added Lessells.