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New COVID infections in South Africa nearly double in single day

Omicron thought to be fueling surge; Norway reports outbreak of mutated virus cases, all linked to Oslo Christmas party

A woman selling snacks sits at the Baragwanath taxi rank in Soweto, South Africa, Thursday Dec. 2, 2021. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)
A woman selling snacks sits at the Baragwanath taxi rank in Soweto, South Africa, Thursday Dec. 2, 2021. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)

JOHANNESBURG — South Africa’s new cases of COVID-19 nearly doubled in a day, authorities reported Wednesday, signaling a dramatic surge in the country where scientists detected the Omicron variant last week.

New confirmed cases rose to 8,561 on Wednesday from 4,373 a day earlier, according to official statistics.

Scientists in South Africa said they are bracing for a rapid increase in COVID-19 cases following the discovery of the new Omicron variant.

“There is a possibility that we are going to see a vast increase in number of cases being identified in South Africa,” Dr. Nicksy Gumede-Moeletsi, regional virologist for the World Health Organization, told The Associated Press.

The Omicron variant has been detected in five of South Africa’s nine provinces and accounted for 74% of the virus genomes sequenced in November, the country’s National Institute for Communicable Diseases announced Wednesday.

Meanwhile, officials in Norway said that at least 50 people in Oslo have been infected with the Omicron variant.

People wait in the observation area after receiving the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine at the Vaccination Centre of Hope at the Cape Town International Convention Centre in Cape Town, South Africa, Nov. 30, 2021. (AP Photo/Nardus Engelbrecht)

The cases are connected to a company’s recent Christmas party in a restaurant in the capital, officials said Thursday.

The Oslo Municipality said in a statement that more cases are expected. Officials are trying to trace transmission routes from the party.

Much remains unknown about the new variant, including whether it is more contagious, as some health authorities suspect, whether it makes people more seriously ill, and whether it can thwart vaccines.

The Norwegian Institute of Public Health said that those affected live in Oslo and surrounding municipalities.

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