Reinfection is three times more likely with Omicron variant, South African health body claims

The new Omicron variant of the coronavirus carries a threefold higher risk of reinfection than the currently dominant Delta or Beta variant, a South Africa group of health organizations said on Thursday.

Statistical analysis of some 2.8 million positive coronavirus samples in South Africa, 35,670 of which were suspected to be reinfections, led researchers to conclude that the omicron mutation has a “substantial ability to evade immunity from prior infection.”

Scientists say reinfection provides a partial explanation for how the new variant has been spreading. The elevated risk of being reinfected is “temporally consistent” with the emergence of the omicron variant in South Africa, the researchers found.

Microbiologist Anne von Gottberg of the National Institute for Communicable Diseases echoed this, during an online news conference hosted by the World Health Organization earlier that day, she said South Africa was seeing a rise in COVID-19 reinfections caused by Omicron.

Daily reports of Coronavirus infections have suddenly risen in South Africa, with the government reporting 11,535 new infections on Thursday, up from 312 ten days ago.

NICD, one of a wider network of health organizations that do genome sequencing on samples, said on Wednesday that the Omicron variant is getting around immunity and fast becoming the dominant variant in the country.

The NICD said in a statement on Thursday that the “reinfection risk profile of Omicron is substantially higher than that associated with the Beta and Delta variants during the second and third waves.” 

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