The Omicron variant appears able to get around some immunity but vaccines should still offer protection against severe disease, according to the latest data from South Africa where it is fast overtaking Delta to become the dominant variant.
Omicron, which has raised global fears of a surge in infections, was first detected in southern Africa last week and has prompted governments across continents to impose travel restrictions and take other measures to try and contain it.
The new variant has been detected in five out of nine South African provinces and was likely to be present all over the country, the latest official report showed on Wednesday.
The daily number of reported cases doubled to 8,561. It was not known how many of those were Omicron as not all test samples are subject to genomic sequencing, but an official presentation said Omicron was “rapidly becoming the dominant variant”.