Gauteng is experiencing a rapid resurgence in new Covid-19 cases that is being driven by the discovery of the new Omicron variant.
However, the rate of hospitalisations and deaths recorded in the province continues to remain low due to vaccinations.
This was revealed on Thursday by the provincial coronavirus command council led by Premier David Makhura at a media briefing in Midrand, Johannesburg.
Dr Mary Kawonga, a member of the council, confirmed that the Omicron variant was now the dominant variant in Gauteng, overtaking the Delta variant that was behind the third wave of the pandemic.
Kawonga said the community transmission of the new variant had been ongoing for the past three weeks, especially among young people and individuals who are under 40 years.
“We’ve been seeing a rapid increase in the widespread community transmission. So in other words, what we’ve seen is that the virus spread from the initial clusters that were identified in the Tshwane district is now present in all the districts in Gauteng,” she said.
“A lot of work is still ongoing to understand the significance of Omicron on its severity and so on. We will report that as the data becomes more available.”
As concerns mount over the looming fourth wave of coronavirus infections during the festive season, Gauteng appears to be the epicentre of the virus in South Africa.
Of the 8,561 new Covid-19 cases recorded across the country on Wednesday, the province accounted for 6,168 cases, followed by the Western Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga and the North West.
Kawonga said 6,000 new cases was the average daily number of cases recorded in Gauteng during the peak of the first and second waves.
She said the new cases being identified in the province were very concerning to the command council.
“It’s a large number of cases in one day. The seven-day rolling average of daily cases has also increased to just under 3,000.
“The rates at which the seven-day rolling average is increasing right now were very likely to hit even higher numbers of cases before the end of this week,” she warned.
While Gauteng was experiencing a resurgence in new cases, Kawonga said hospitalisations were increasing at a much lower rate.
She said this might be due to the effects of Covid-19 vaccines, which are the best defence against the virus and help to protect against hospitalisations and deaths due to severe disease.
Kawonga said people who were 50 years and older had the least number of new hospital admissions, while those under 40 years had more numbers of hospitalisations.
“It’s leading us to believe that perhaps the vaccines are now working because we know that people over the age of 50 in our province have higher vaccination coverage than people under the age of 30,” she said.
With regards to Covid-19 related deaths, they were also increasing at a much lower rate than the new cases identified.
“During the third wave when Gauteng was recording 9,000 cases per week, we were recording 475 deaths per week which is a lot higher than what we are seeing now, which is about 25 deaths a week,” Kawonga said.
Kawonga called on Gauteng residents who have not received their jabs yet to get vaccinated, saying this would help to sustain the low rate of hospitalisations and deaths recorded in the province.