Scientists in South Africa are bracing up for a rapid increase in COVID-19 cases following the emergence of the omicron strain of the virus.
According to the regional virologist for the World Health Organization Africa Dr. Nicksy Gumede-Moeletsi the discovery of the new variant is a concern due to the age group of people being infected.
"There is a very high concern meaning that it seems, as if the majority of the people that are infected by this variant is quite an age group that is having a high possibility of really taking the virus all over it any time. And it's even worse that we are going to, the universities and schools are going to be closing, and there'll be so many lots of activities that might be taking place. And so that is one of the concerns that the country is facing related to the current status for this variant."
Some countries have already suspended flights with South Africa since Friday. Dr. Gumede-Moeletsi believes this may discourage other nations from declaring cases in future.
"You ask yourself the question that was the wrong approach for them (the countries reporting the new variant) to come transparent or what? So these are the things that we really need to put it very, very, very clear and transparent to the world, that reporting something of danger is the very best tool that we can do. Firstly, we are trying to warn the other countries of the emergency that might be coming through, and those countries they are going now to try, also to try their level best to get prepared of, if this particular pathogen enter into their territory, (what it) is supposed to do. But closing the borders or banning certain countries for entering, I don't think is an answer."
There have been several reports of airline passengers who have been rendered stranded at South African airports since Friday.
The discovery of a new and potentially more transmissible coronavirus variant by South African health authorities has sparked a lot of reaction across the world, causing a number of countries to ban travelers from several southern African countries.
The World Health Organization announced Friday it has designated the newly identified coronavirus variant, B.1.1.529, as a variant of concern, named Omicron.
Besides South Africa, the newly identified variant has been detected in Botswana, Hong Kong and Belgium.
It appears to be spreading rapidly in parts of South Africa and scientists are concerned its unusually high number of mutations could make it more transmissible and result in immune evasion.
The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control said there is a "high to very high" risk the new variant will spread in Europe.