Citizen Reporter
2 minute read
3 Dec 2021
8:59 am

OMICRON UPDATES: How health dept is prepping for fourth wave

Citizen Reporter

Floods of information about Omicron make it difficult to keep up with the latest insights. Find what you need to know in this live blog.

Photo: iStock/Cheryl Kahla/

The new Omicron variant – initially classified as B.1.1.529 – presenting unique mutations dealt a blow to global and local efforts to eradicate the virus. 

Omicron was identified by South African scientists and researchers on 24 November, with the first known confirmed infection from a specimen collected on 9 November. 

Omicron: Latest updates

While travel bans could dissuade countries from sharing data about the evolving virus, the WHO said unvaccinated people and those vulnerable to Covid-19 should avoid international travel.

Experts – both international-based and on local shores – are looking at the impact of the Omicron variant on both the local and global economies.

Covid-19 health briefing in South Africa

The Minister of Health, Dr Joe Phaahla and a panel of experts convened a virtual briefing on 3 December 2021 to shed light on government’s efforts in the fight against Covid-19.

Gauteng is leading the country in terms of a spike in Covid-19 infections – with 11,535 new cases recorded on Thursday – followed by the Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal.

The Free State and Northern Cape are the only provinces with a lower rate in new infections. More updates will be added below:

Apart from cases in South Africa, Omicron has so far been detected in Belgium, Botswana, Israel, Hong Kong, the Czech Republic, Italy, Britain, and Germany. 

Global travel bans

The World Health Organization has classified Omicron as a “variant of concern”, but cautioned against knee-jerk reaction travel bans. 

This call was not heeded, and within days, at least 30 countries locked or restricted their borders to South African and other African travellers. 

The Department of International Relations and Cooperation (Dirco) has slammed the globe’s reaction and travel bans, which was kickstarted by the UK placing South Africa back on its red list. 

SA punished for advanced science

Minister Naledi Pandor assured the country was in talks with regions where travel bans had been imposed, and are attempting to “persuade them to reconsider”. 

Dirco also pointed out that the reaction to variants discovered in southern Africa was starkly different to variants found elsewhere. 

Pandor said the travel bans were “akin to punishing South Africa for its advanced genomic sequencing and the ability to detect new variants quicker.” 

She said “excellent science” must be “applauded and not punished”.