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Omicron: The world should support SA and not discriminate or isolate it, says expert who broke news of new Covid-19 variant

Prof Tulio De Oliveira at KRISP, Department of Virology and infectious diseases UKZN Picture: Motshwari Mofokeng/African News Agency(ANA)

Prof Tulio De Oliveira at KRISP, Department of Virology and infectious diseases UKZN Picture: Motshwari Mofokeng/African News Agency(ANA)

Published Nov 27, 2021

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Durban - There has been widespread outcry after several countries placed travel restrictions on South Africa following the announcement of a new Covid-19 variant.

On Thursday, the SA Health Department announced the discovery of the B.1.1.529 or Omicron, with more than 20 confirmed cases in the country. The Department further believes that the new variant is behind Gauteng's spike in new infections.

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However, Professor Tulio de Oliveira, the director of the KwaZulu-Natal Research Innovation and Sequencing Platform (Krisp), believes SA should not be isolated.

"The world should provide support to South Africa and Africa, and not discriminate or isolate it," he tweeted.

De Oliveira said SA had been very transparent with scientific information.

"We identified, made data public, and raised the alarm as the infections are just increasing. We did this to protect our country and the world in spite of potentially suffering massive discrimination," he said.

He added that the new variant was really worrisome at a mutational level.

"South Africa and Africa will need support (financial, public health, scientific) to control it so it does not spread in the world. Our poor and deprived population can not be in lockdown without financial support," de Oliveira said.

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The new variant has spread quickly and in less than two weeks has dominated all infections after the devastating Delta wave.

De Oliveira said because this variant can be detected by a normal PCR due to deletion at Spike position 69-70, it will make it easy for the world to track it.

He added that experts and research teams are working around the clock to understand Omicron's effects, transmissibility, vaccines, re-infection, disease severity, and diagnostics.

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He also appealed to the world's rich to help support SA and Africa financially to control and extinguish variants.

"By protecting its poor and oppressed population, we will protect the world," he said.

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