In South Africa, where less than 45% of the adult population is fully immunized, the coronavirus has claimed more than 3.8 million cases and some 100,350 deaths. After a lull in recent months, the country officially most affected on the continent by Covid-19 entered full force at the end of April into a new wave of the pandemic, the fifth.

Since the beginning of May, the number of new cases recorded in this country of nearly 60 million inhabitants has sometimes increased by more than 50% in twenty-four hours, according to official figures from the National Institute for Contagious Diseases and the Center for innovation and response to epidemics (Ceri). This surge is driven in particular by two new sub-variants of Omicron, the virulence of which has yet to be determined.

South Africa is still doing genetic sequencing

“South African scientists who identified Omicron late last year have now flagged two other Omicron sub-variants, BA.4 and BA.5, as causing a spike in cases in South Africa,” World Health Organization (WHO) Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said last Wednesday.

These two variants could be discovered “because South Africa is still carrying out the genetic sequencing [du virus] that other countries have stopped doing,” added the WHO leader. And to continue: “It is too early to know if these new sub-variants can cause more severe forms of the disease than the other sub-variants of Omicron. »

At the beginning of March, South Africa had experienced a period of forty-eight hours without any death linked to Covid-19, a first since 2020. President Cyril Ramaphosa then announced in early April the lifting of all legal restrictions linked to the pandemic. But the South African government confirmed last Thursday the return of the obligation to wear masks for children at school, changing its mind shortly after announcing its lifting.

The BA.4 and BA.5 variants already detected in France

The entire population, including children, must therefore continue to comply with the rules laid down by the ministry to fight the pandemic, including the obligation to wear a mask in closed public places. At the same time, the government continues to urge residents to get vaccinated: “The only way to protect ourselves and our loved ones against the pandemic and the current increase in the number of positive cases is to get vaccinated and adhere to the preventive measures all the time. »

According to data from Public Health France, the BA.4 and BA.5 variants have already been detected in France. “Two cases of BA.4 and six cases of BA.5 have been confirmed” and are even “under investigation”. These two variants remain in the minority and are therefore subject to “reinforced surveillance”, indicates the agency in its latest epidemiological bulletin. For its part, the WHO, through the voice of its Director General, calls for caution. The Covid-19 epidemic is not over: “In South Africa like in many other countries, we cannot see the way the virus mutates and we do not know what awaits us. »

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