(AP) — Worried scientists in South Africa are scrambling to combat the lightning spread across the country of the new and highly transmissible omicron COVID-19 variant as the world grapples with its emergence. The omicron variant has sent South Africa from a period of low transmission to rapid growth of new confirmed cases in the space of two weeks. The country’s numbers are still relatively low. But omicron’s speed in infecting young South Africans alarms experts. What looked like a cluster infection among some university students in Pretoria ballooned into hundreds and then thousands of new cases. Scientists studying the surge identified the new variant that is likely responsible for 90% of the new cases.