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South Africa may be entering COVID-19 fifth wave, says Health Minister

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South Africa’s Health Minister Joe Phaahla, on Friday, confirmed that the country may be entering a fifth COVID-19 wave earlier than expected following a sustained rise in infections over the past 14 days.

Phaahla said at a press conference that the new wave seems to be driven by the BA.4 and BA.5 Omicron sub-variants, adding that the country which has recorded the most coronavirus cases and deaths on the African continent, only exited a fourth wave around January and had predicted a fifth wave could start in May or June, early in the southern hemisphere winter.

The Minister told the press briefing that although hospitalisations were picking up, there was so far no dramatic change in admissions to intensive care units or deaths.

“At this stage, health authorities have not been alerted to any new variant, other than changes to the dominant one circulating, Omicron,” Phaahla said.

Infectious disease specialist Richard Lessells who also spoke at the same briefing, said waning immunity from previous waves could be contributing to the earlier-than-expected resurgence in cases.

“The rising share of infections attributed to the BA.4 and BA.5 sub-lineages of Omicron suggested they had a growth advantage over other Omicron sub-variants like BA.2.

“But so far there was no sign that BA.4 and BA.5 were causing significantly more severe disease,” he said.

South Africa has reported more than 3.7 million COVID cases and over 100,000 deaths since the breakout of the pandemic.

On Thursday, the World Health Organisation’s Africa office had flagged the rise in South Africa’s infections as the main driver of an uptick on the African continent.

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Unprecedented floods destroy 2,500 homes, displace thousands in Eastern Sudan

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More than 2,500 homes have been destroyed while thousands of residents were forced to flee several towns in eastern Sudan as a result of seasonal floods that hit the region following days of torrential rain.

Sudanese state news agency, SUNA, reported on Friday that the collapse of the houses have left thousands homeless in the already impoverished region.

SUNA said another 546 houses were partially destroyed by torrential rains in the River Nile province late Thursday as the River bank broke and the area became flooded.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in a statement on the disaster, said there were fears some people could have been swept away by the floods especially those at the bank of the River Nile.

The statement noted that since the start of the rainy season in May, an estimated 38,000 people have been affected by the floods across the country.

“So far, the areas hardest hit include Kassala, South Darfur, Central Darfur, South Kordofan, the White Nile and the River Nile provinces.

“The total nationwide death toll remains undetermined,” OCHA said.

In an earlier report on Thursday, OCHA had said that at least six people had died, and an unconfirmed number of people were injured when their houses collapsed or were washed away by floods in the Central Darfur province.

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Five killed as opposition protesters clash with security agencies in Somaliland

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At least five persons were killed on Thursday as a demonstration by Somaliland opposition members protesting over fears of a delayed election, turned bloody as security forces tried to repel the demonstrators from destroying properties.

An opposition leader said the police opened fire on the demonstrators after accusing them of not following officers’ instructions.

Hundreds of people took part in the protests across the country after talks between the government and opposition failed and the opposition accused authorities of trying to delay the election.

President Muse Bihi Abdi who confirmed the incident in a statement on Friday, said the five were killed in the capital, Hargeisa, and the towns of Burao and Erigavo in the northern region that separates the breakaway country from Somalia.

Abdi also confirmed that almost 100 others were wounded, with most of them members of security forces.

The president however, blamed opposition groups for the unrest, reiterating that unauthorized protests would not be tolerated and dissidents would be crushed.

Main opposition leader, Abdirahman Mohamed Irro, said despite the killings, protests will continue until the presidential election is held on November 13 as pronounced by Abdi.

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