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Preprint in English | EMBASE | ID: ppcovidwho-326897


The severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) epidemic in southern Africa has been characterised by three distinct waves. The first was associated with a mix of SARS-CoV-2 lineages, whilst the second and third waves were driven by the Beta and Delta variants respectively1–3. In November 2021, genomic surveillance teams in South Africa and Botswana detected a new SARS-CoV-2 variant associated with a rapid resurgence of infections in Gauteng Province, South Africa. Within three days of the first genome being uploaded, it was designated a variant of concern (Omicron) by the World Health Organization and, within three weeks, had been identified in 87 countries. The Omicron variant is exceptional for carrying over 30 mutations in the spike glycoprotein, predicted to influence antibody neutralization and spike function4. Here, we describe the genomic profile and early transmission dynamics of Omicron, highlighting the rapid spread in regions with high levels of population immunity.

Eurosurveillance ; 26(29):10, 2021.
Article in English | Web of Science | ID: covidwho-1341599


Background In South Africa, COVID-19 control measures to prevent SARS-CoV-2 spread were initiated on 16 March 2020. Such measures may also impact the spread of other pathogens, including influenza virus and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) with implications for future annual epidemics and expectations for the subsequent northern hemisphere winter. Methods We assessed the detection of influenza and RSV through facility-based syndromic surveillance of adults and children with mild or severe respiratory illness in South Africa from January to October 2020, and compared this with surveillance data from 2013 to 2019. Results Facility-based surveillance revealed a decline in influenza virus detection during the regular season compared with previous years. This was observed throughout the implementation of COVID-19 control measures. RSV detection decreased soon after the most stringent COVID-19 control measures commenced;however, an increase in RSV detection was observed after the typical season, following the reopening of schools and the easing of measures. Conclusion COVID-19 non-pharmaceutical interventions led to reduced circulation of influenza and RSV in South Africa. This has limited the country's ability to provide influenza virus strains for the selection of the annual influenza vaccine. Delayed increases in RSV case numbers may reflect the easing of COVID-19 control measures. An increase in influenza virus detection was not observed, suggesting that the measures may have impacted the two pathogens differently. The impact that lowered and/or delayed influenza and RSV circulation in 2020 will have on the intensity and severity of subsequent annual epidemics is unknown and warrants close monitoring.