New COVID-19 cases in South Africa have tripled in three days, according to new figures released by the country's health ministry on Thursday, sparking concerns over the spread of the new omicron variant.
South Africa is entering its fourth wave of COVID-19 infections due to the omicron variant, Minister of Health Joe Phaahla added at a media briefing on Friday.
He said that the infections with the new variant have been detected in seven out of the country's nine provinces. Since omicron was first detected in the country eight days ago, cases have risen steadily, he said on Friday.
In the last 24 hours, there were 11,535 new cases recorded in South Africa, according to the National Institute for Communicable Diseases.
“Today, as we enter the fourth wave with a new variant, we can see confirmation of this warning. We have moved from a total of around 2,465 new cases last Thursday when this variant was announced to yesterday’s high of 11,535. A rise of just over 9,000 cases per day within seven days," he said.
The data showed a 22.4 percent positivity rate of people tested for the virus, up from 16.5 percent on Wednesday, a massive jump from a 1 percent positivity rate in early November, The Washington Post reported.
"We can still manage this in a manner where government doesn't have to invoke serious restrictions over the next few days if we all just do our basic duties of the safety measures, but also if more and more of us who are eligible ... approach their nearest vaccination sites," Phaahla said.
The omicron variant was announced by scientists last week in South Africa and has since been discovered in more than 20 countries.
The U.S. has already restricted travel from South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique and Malawi in response to the new variant.
New omicron variant cases in the U.S. have been detected in five states — California, Minnesota, Colorado, New York and Hawaii.