Omicron: New Covid-19 variant behind spike in Western Cape cases, says provincial health head

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  • The Western Cape has seen a spike of new infections in the space of a week.
  • The bulk of infections have been in the Cape Town metro. 
  • Western Cape health department head Dr Keith Cloete says the Omicron variant is the driving force behind the increase in infections. 

The new Covid-19 variant, Omicron, discovered last week is the driving force behind a spike in infections in the Western Cape, according to the head of the provincial health department, Dr Keith Cloete.

Provincial health authorities are on high alert as the seven-day moving average of new cases reaches 20%, indicating a resurgence of Covid-19 infections. 

Briefing the provincial standing committee on Covid-19 on Wednesday, Cloete said the bulk of the increases have been in the Cape Town metro.

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"There is about a 111% week-on-week increase in the metro, this comes after very low numbers. Most sub-districts are starting to see this increase, including the Northern, Southern and Western and Klipfontein sub-districts." 

Cloete added there was less of an increase in rural areas, however, the Garden Route and Cape Winelands were showing significant increases. 

He told the committee the Omicron variant was responsible for the majority of new cases in the province.

"Scientists are still trying to establish whether this is more transmissible than the other variants. There is no evidence that suggests that the vaccines will not protect [from] Omicron and people should vaccinate." 

Cloete said ramping up vaccination efforts would be crucial to mitigate the impact of the fourth wave.

He added hospital admissions have not yet seen an increase in Covid-19 patients. 

"The Mitchells Plain Hospital of Hope has been closed but we are putting plans in place to put it back online again when cases increase." 

Health MEC Nomafrench Mbombo has urged everyone to get vaccinated. 

"Our best defence against getting seriously ill from Covid-19 is being vaccinated. There is no evidence to support that the vaccine is ineffective against the variant.

"So please, I ask that if you are more vulnerable, have comorbidity or are over 50 plus that you absolutely do not delay and get vaccinated as soon as possible. It has never been quicker or easier to do so." 

READ | Omicron: New Covid-19 variant sparks fresh 'vaccine apartheid' outrage

Mbombo said there were still areas where there was low vaccine uptake, including Mitchells Plain, Khayelitsha and Central Karoo.

"In Mitchells Plain, it's not the case of residents not [being] informed, it's the role influencers play who have the knowledge about the vaccine such as GPs and pastors.

"They are the source of information for some households. The approach there is to use the influencers to be the vehicles to make those residents change their minds."

She added in Khayelitsha, it was about misinformation around the vaccine as, for example, some were scared they would not be able to have children when taking it.

"And in Central Karoo, they are saying the vaccines are evil and it's not among the older ones it's from the young ones. And the source of this information is from the pastors." 

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