Russian President Vladimir Putin, in a telephone conversation with South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, has promised to send medics and equipment to South Africa to fight the omicron strain COVID-19. This was reported by the Kremlin press service.

"An agreement has been reached to send a group of Russian virologists, epidemiologists, researchers and doctors, as well as a sanitary and epidemiological laboratory and other medical equipment to South Africa in the very near future,"- the statement said.

The Kremlin press service noted that Ramaphosa expressed gratitude for the readiness of the Russian side to cooperate in the fight against the pandemic.

This is the second telephone conversation between the presidents of Russia and South Africa in December when they discuss the COVID-19 omicron strain. Prior to that conversation, on December 4, Putin and Ramaphosa agreed to "join forces in the fight against the pandemic" of the coronavirus.

The emergence of the new COVID-19 strain was reported in late November by British scientists. The first cases of infection were reported in South Africa and Botswana. The director of the Centre for Epidemic Innovation and Response in South Africa, Tulio de Oliveira, later revealed that he had discussed the new variant of the coronavirus with World Health Organisation staff, leading WHO to call an emergency meeting. As of late November, de Oliveira estimated that around 90% of new cases in South Africa's Gauteng province, which includes Johannesburg, were caused by the new variant, later dubbed "omicron".

Rudo Mativa, head of the intensive care unit at Soweto Hospital in South Africa, said the Omicron strain was spreading faster among unvaccinated people in their 20s and 30s. She noted that young people come in with moderate to severe disease and some need intensive care.