JOHANNESBURG, (AP) — South African scientists are worried about the spread of lightning from the highly transmissible omicron variant COVID-19. This is as the world struggles to deal with its emergence.

Two weeks ago, South Africa went from experiencing low transmission to experiencing rapid growth in confirmed cases. Although the country has only 2,828 confirmed cases, it is still relatively small. However, health professionals are concerned about the speed with which omicron infects young South Africans.

Rudo Mathivha (head of the intensive care unit at Soweto’s Baragwanath Hospital) stated that there has been a significant shift in the patient demographic profile for COVID-19.

“Young people in their 20s and 30s are being brought in with severe to moderately severe diseases, some of which require intensive care. Mathivha said that about 65% of those who aren’t vaccinated are not up to date and that most aren’t even half-vaccinated. “I worry that the public health facilities will be overwhelmed as the population grows,” said Mathivha.

She stated that public hospitals must be prepared to handle a large influx of patients who may need intensive care.

Mathivha stated, “We know that we have a new version.” “The worst scenario is that it hits us as delta… we must have critical care beds available.”

The cluster infection that started out as a simple case of a university student in Pretoria grew to include hundreds and even thousands of cases, first in the capital and then in Johannesburg, South Africa’s biggest city.

According to South Africa’s health officials, scientists discovered the new variant of the virus that was responsible for the sudden surge in cases. Early research has shown that the virus has a 2 reproduction rate, meaning that each person infected is likely to spread the disease to at least two others.

This new variant is more susceptible to mutations and can evade immune reactions. The World Health Organization examined the data and identified the variant as omicron. It used Greek letters to identify it as a highly transmissible variant.

It’s a serious concern. Professor Willem Hanekom of the Africa Health Research Institute said that everyone is very concerned about this virus.

This variant is found mainly in Gauteng province and the Johannesburg region of South Africa. However, we have clues from diagnostic tests… which suggest that this variant may already be all over South Africa,” Hanekom said. Hanekom is also the co-chairperson of South African COVID Variant Research Consortium.

“The scientific response from South Africa is that we must learn as much as possible,” he said. He said that we know very little. “For instance, we don’t know how severe this virus is. This means that we don’t know how serious the disease it causes.”

Vaccination is a key factor. It appears that the new variant is spreading fastest among unvaccinated people. Only 40% of adults in South Africa are currently vaccinated. The proportion is lower for those aged 20-40 years.

South Africa is home to nearly 20 million vaccines, made by Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer. However, the number of people who get vaccines each day is only about 120,000, which is far below the government’s goal of 300,000.

Hanekom said that scientists are trying to find out more about the omicron and South Africans can take steps to protect themselves from it.

This is an exceptional opportunity. He said that there is still time for those who have not been vaccinated to get it. “This vaccine will provide some protection, particularly against severe infections and death.” I urge everyone to get vaccinated if possible.