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S African Covid Infection Rate Doubles Amid Omicron Variant Fears

The National Institute for Communicable Diseases reported 8,561 infections in the previous 24 hours on Wednesday evening, up from 4,373 the day before.

The travel bans imposed on South Africa by a growing number of countries due to the new highly-transmissible variant of COVID-19. (Photo: PTI)

New Delhi: The number of new coronavirus infections in South Africa doubled in a day, putting pressure on the government to rethink the restrictions on unvaccinated people attending public meetings. The National Institute for Communicable Diseases reported 8,561 infections in the previous 24 hours on Wednesday evening, up from 4,373 the day before.

Leading epidemiologist Dr Salim Abdool Karim has projected that South Africa is likely to have 10,000 cases daily by Sunday and the fourth wave would be reached by Thursday, experts said. The economic hub of Gauteng province accounts for 72 per cent of the current infections.

Rising Calls For Stricter Norms On Public Gathering

While organisers of a number of events continue to either call off or postpone their functions indefinitely, there have been rising demands for the government to review the limitations on public gatherings for unvaccinated people.

Last Sunday, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that there would be no change to the current lowest Level One of the country’s five-level lockdown strategy. This still allows substantial numbers at both indoor and outdoor gatherings, which needed to be reduced, analysts suggested.

ALSO READ: WHO Confirms Omicron Variants In 23 Countries, US Reports First Case In California

Ramaphosa’s announcement came in the wake of the discovery of the new Omicron variant. The president said the decision would be reviewed after a week, with some saying that an increase in lockdown restriction levels is unavoidable despite the risk to the economy which had just started to recover.

South Africa Hit By Travel Bans

South Africa has also been hit with a travel ban by over 20 countries, which Ramaphosa said was an unfair and discriminatory action merely because the country’s experts had been first to identify the new variant.

The usual tourist boom in the December/January period, especially from the UK, the US and Europe, which had been expected to boost the economy, will now not happen as many countries have banned flights to and from South Africa.

As the government scrambled to find ways to encourage local tourism as a counter to this, many inland citizens who usually flock to the coastal cities of Durban and Cape Town are reported to be cancelling bookings amid fears of the spreading virus.

Event That Turned Super-spreader Last Year Cancelled This Time

In the south coast town of Ballito, which annually sees tens of thousands of students who have completed their final year of schooling gathering for a rave party at the Rage Festival, organisers called off the event on Wednesday after 36 people tested positive.

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ALSO READ: Will Omicron Be More Contagious Than Delta? Virus Evolution Expert Explains

Earlier, organisers had been adamant that the event would continue because they had put adequate COVID-19 protocols in place, including participants producing mandatory vaccination certificates.

“It is our responsibility to do the right thing, based on facts, collaboration and the resources and tools we have available,” the organisers said in a statement.

The same event last year became a super-spreader when over 800 tested positive.

(With PTI Inputs)

Also Watch: Omicron Variant: How Serious Is The New Covid-19 Variant & Should We Be Worried? | Explained

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