JOHANNESBURG (AP) — South Africa has likely entered a new wave of COVID-19 earlier than expected as new infections and hospitalizations have risen rapidly over the past two weeks, the country’s health minister said on Friday.

The increase in new cases has been dominated by the BA.4 and BA.5 lineages of the omicron variant which dominated the country’s earlier wave of the virus.

“Whichever way you look at it, it does suggest that we may actually be entering the fifth wave much earlier," Health Minister Joe Phaahla said Friday at a televised press briefing.


He said officials will be watching carefully over the next few days to determine if the increase is sustained which would confirm a new wave.

The country’s new infections are now several thousand per day, up from a few hundred a few weeks ago.

According to Phaahla, there was currently no information indicating the emergence of a new strain, which scientists had earlier suggested may drive the country’s fifth wave, expected during the country’s upcoming winter season from May into June.

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