“There are 5 sub-variants of Omicron observed worldwide. We are monitoring two of them – BA.4 and BA.5,” Department spokesman Foster Mohale told Xinhua.
Mohale said the dominance of the BA.4 subvariant did not cause severe transmission, Xinhua News Agency reported.
“The dominance of BA.4 did not result in a change in transmission rate or severity. These subvariants do not and will not cause the 5th wave,” he said.
The department said it expected the fifth wave of the pandemic by the end of May.
Professor Tulio de Oliveira from the University of KwaZulu-Natal also spoke about the new sub-variants but said no cause for concern.
“New Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 detected in South Africa, Botswana, Belgium, Germany, Denmark and the UK. Early indications that these new sublines are increasing as a share of confirmed cases genomics in South Africa. No reason for alarm as no major spike in cases, admissions or deaths in South Africa,” he tweeted.
Infectious disease epidemiologist Abdul Karim told SAfm Radio that the variant that would replace the Omicron would spread much faster. There was no way to predict whether the new variant would be severe or mild.
“Each new variant was able to spread faster than the previous one,” he said.
Due to the Beta and Delta variants, the second and third waves in South Africa were more severe, while the fourth wave associated with an Omicron variant had fewer hospitalizations and deaths.
The National Institute of Communicable Diseases said on Tuesday that South Africa had detected 1,291 new Covid cases in the past 24 hours, representing a positivity rate of 5.6%. There were two deaths during the same period, bringing the total number of fatalities to 100,116.