The highly contagious variant of Delta is causing an increase in South African COVID-19 infections that is testing the capacity of hospitals and forcing authorities to look into stricter restrictions, the government and scientists said on Saturday.
The most affected country in Africa recorded 18,762 new infections on Saturday, the highest daily figure since January, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in the laboratory to 1,895,905, of which 59,621 have been fatal.
The country is in the throes of its third wave.
“We are in the exponential phase of the pandemic, with a figure that is growing very, very, extremely fast and will continue to grow in the coming weeks,” said Tulio de Oliveira, a leading virologist in the country.
The Delta variant first seen in India now appears to “dominate infections in South Africa,” Oliveira of the South African Genomic Surveillance Network said in a virtual briefing.
Koleka Mlisana, the head of a government ministerial advisory committee on COVID-19, told the same session that there is “evidence that the Delta variant could be really taking over”.
To curb the spread, South Africa must “make tougher and stricter restrictions … and this must be done urgently,” Mlisana said.
Acting Health Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane said that due to the prevalence of the Delta variant, the number of infections “is likely to exceed the peak of the second wave” in January.
Hospitals in the densely populated Gauteng province, which comprises Johannesburg and Pretoria, and the nation’s economic and industrial core, are “fighting hard,” Mlisana said.
The province accounts for about 60 percent of national infections.
Doctors are now beginning to transport patients to other provinces where there is still space in hospitals.
“We remain very concerned about the increase in hospitalization, which is putting a lot of pressure on the country’s healthcare system,” the minister said.
The country vaccination boost it has been slow and only about 2.4 million people have been immunized since February.
On Friday, thousands of opposition activists gathered in Pretoria to demand a faster implementation of coronavirus vaccination.
President Cyril Ramaphosa is expected to extend the blockade restrictions during an address to the nation scheduled for Sunday.
Health officials around the world have been alarmed by the rapid spread of the Delta variant.
The World Health Organization said Friday that the Delta variant had reached at least 85 countries.
© 2021 AFP
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