Zimbabwe has detected Omicron variant in the country, Vice President Constantino Chiwenga said on Thursday.
“We are now in a particularly dangerous period once again, where the fourth wave is slowly visiting us with the identification of the B.1.1.529 or the Omicron variant of Covid-19,” Chiwenga, who is also the health minister said on national TV.
Chiwenga did not give details of how many cases of Omicron infections had been recorded in the country.
Chiwenga spoke as Zimbabwe’s new Covid-19 infections topped 1,000 for the first time since August 4. The health ministry said 82 of the 1,042 infections had been reported at schools and colleges. There were no deaths, although hospital admissions rose to 80 from 52 a day earlier.
The new SARS-CoV-2 variant was first identified by scientists in South Africa on November 24 and has been labelled a “variant of concern” by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Cases have been detected in a growing list of countries, including Botswana, Belgium, Hong Kong, Israel, Japan, the United Kingdom, Germany and Australia.
The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control said the variant’s “immune escape potential” gave it “increased transmissibility advantage compared to Delta”. South African scientists so far maintain that its effects are mild, and there is no proof yet that it leads to severe sickness in patients.
The emergence of the Omicron variant has sparked worldwide panic and led to countries restricting access to their territories, beginning with travel bans for visitors from Southern Africa.
On Tuesday, Zimbabwe announced that everyone arriving in the country except diplomats and cargo transporters would be quarantined for 10 days at their own cost. By Friday however, the directive was yet to be implemented after officials said the measures were announced without a plan.
As of December 2, Zimbabwe had reported 4,707 deaths from a total 136,379 cases.