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Health And Family

Reinfections three times more likely with Omicron — South African research

Agence France-Presse
Reinfections three times more likely with Omicron â South African research
Graphic showing how SARS-CoV-2 uses the spike protein to enter cells.
AFP/JOHN SAEKI

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — A preliminary study by South African scientists published Thursday suggests the Omicron variant is three times more likely to cause reinfections compared to the Delta or Beta strains.

The findings, based on data collected by the country's health system, provides the first epidemiological evidence about Omicron's ability to evade immunity from prior infection.

The paper was uploaded on a medical preprint server and has not yet been peer-reviewed.

There were 35,670 suspected reinfections among 2.8 million individuals with positive tests until November 27. Cases were considered reinfections if they tested positive 90 days apart.

"Recent reinfections have occurred in individuals whose primary infections occurred across all three waves, with the most having their primary infection in the Delta wave," tweeted Juliet Pulliam, director of the South African DSI-NRF Centre of Excellence in Epidemiological Modelling and Analysis.

Pulliam cautioned that the authors did not have information about the individuals' vaccination status and therefore could not assess to what extent Omicron evades vaccine-induced immunity. The researchers plan to study this next.

"Data are also urgently needed on disease severity associated with Omicron infection, including in individuals with a history of prior infection," she said.

Michael Head, a scientist at the University of Southampton, praised the research as "high quality."

"This analysis does look very concerning, with immunity from previous infections being relatively easily bypassed. Might this all still be a ‘false alarm’? That is looking less and less likely," he said in a statement.

Exponential rise

Earlier, top South African scientist Anne von Gottberg, an expert at the National Institute for Communicable Diseases, forecast a surge in cases but said authorities expected vaccines would still be effective against severe outcomes.

"We believe the number of cases will increase exponentially in all provinces of the country," she said in a news conference with the World Health Organization's Africa region.

"We believe that vaccines will still however protect against severe disease," she added.

"Vaccines have always held out to protect against serious disease, hospitalisations and death."

WHO experts reiterated calls for a rethink on travel bans against southern Africa, given that Omicron had now been reported in nearly two dozen countries and its source remained unclear.

"South Africa and Botswana detected the variant. We don't know where the origin of this could have been," said specialist Ambrose Talisuna. "To punish people who are just detecting or reporting... is unfair."

In mid-November, South Africa was reporting about 300 cases a day. On Wednesday the country reported 8,561 new cases, up from 4,373 the day before and 2,273 on Monday.

COVID-19 VARIANT OMICRON VARIANT SOUTH AFRICA
As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: January 19, 2022 - 1:59pm

Follow this page for updates on the new COVID-19 variant, dubbed Omicron and originally detected in South Africa. Photo courtesy of the The STAR/Miguel de Guzman

January 19, 2022 - 1:59pm

The Philippines reports the detection of 492 additional cases of the hyper-transmissible Omicron variant of COVID-19.

Of the total, 332 are locals, while 160 are returning overseas Filipinos.

This brings the total number of Omicron cases in the country. — Gaea Katreena Cabico

January 19, 2022 - 8:36am

France's daily reported new coronavirus cases broke a new record on Tuesday with an average of over 300,000 a day in the past week, with the headline figure approaching half a million.

The latest data issued by Public Health France showed that there were 464,769 new cases in the last 24-hour period as the Omicron variant of Covid-19 spread unabated.

A day earlier, 102,144 people had tested positive for the virus. — AFP

January 18, 2022 - 11:29am

China's postal service has ordered workers to disinfect international deliveries and urged the public to reduce orders from overseas after authorities claimed mail could be the source of recent coronavirus outbreaks.

China Post on Monday published a statement ordering workers to disinfect the outer packaging of all international mail "as soon as possible" and requiring employees handling foreign letters and packages to receive booster vaccine shots.

The postal service also asked the public to reduce purchases and deliveries from "countries and regions with a high overseas epidemic risk" and said domestic mail should be handled in different areas to prevent cross-contamination. — AFP

January 14, 2022 - 11:45am

Preliminary data from a trial shows AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine increased antibodies against the coronavirus Omicron variant for a booster dose.

The British-Swedish pharmaceutical reports that the response against both Omicron and Delta variants was seen in those who received the booster while initially vaccinated with either the AstraZeneca shot or another mRNA vaccine.

January 11, 2022 - 11:09am

Omicron is now the dominant COVID-19 variant in the Philippines says Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, citing results of the latest genome sequencing on January 3.

The newest "variant of concern" has surpassed the Delta variant, believed to be behind the second wave of the pandemic in March last year.

Omicron is even more transmissible than the Delta variant.

FULL STORY: Omicron dominant COVID-19 variant in latest genome sequencing — DOH

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