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Omicron Infection Rates In South Africa Slowing Down

Writer: Lois New data from South Africa suggests that Omicron outbreaks in the country are levelling off. It has been less than three weeks since doctors and scientists discovered the new variant. South Africa’s Gauteng province, which experienced a surge in Omicron infections from November,……

Writer: Lois

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New data from South Africa suggests that Omicron outbreaks in the country are levelling off. It has been less than three weeks since doctors and scientists discovered the new variant.

South Africa’s Gauteng province, which experienced a surge in Omicron infections from November, is now experiencing a slowdown in infection rates. The seven-day infection rate has flattened in Gauteng’s city of Tshwane, one of the first outbreak sources in the province.

“Case growth is steeper than last week but still has slowed down versus November,” said Louis Rossouw, a member of the COVID-19 Actuaries Response Group in South Africa.

“In Gauteng, cases are still levelling off. Tshwane cases are relatively flat, with a slight increase in the most recent days.”

Statisticians have also discovered that South Africa’s COVID-19 case fatality rate (the percentage of people who die from an infection) has significantly decreased since Omicron was found.

The case fatality rate with the Delta variant was around three per cent of infections or one death per 33 infections. However, the rate has dropped to 0.5 per cent or one death per 200 infections. This death rate has been the lowest since the COVID-19 pandemic in South Africa began.

However, there are claims that the case fatality rate could rise as the number of infected who are hospitalised or die could increase in the coming weeks.

Nevertheless, Peter Streicher, a research associate at the University of Johannesburg, has noted that the lag between death rates and infection rates in South Africa is only ten days. It has been over ten days since the variant was discovered.

“The case fatality rate was consistently at three per cent until late November, mostly Delta deaths,” said Mr Streicher.

“If the case fatality rate remained at three per cent, we would have seen 200 deaths per day by now. We are seeing around 21 deaths per day currently, of which eight are probably still Delta deaths,” he added.

“Omicron is extremely mild. The rest of the world has nothing to fear.”

Furthermore, the researcher’s modelling shows Gauteng’s Omicron wave has peaked and that the total deaths resulting from this outbreak will be approximately 640. This number is four per cent of South Africa’s Delta wave death toll, which amounted to 15,400 fatalities.

Experts also suggest that the Omicron variant brings milder symptoms, despite its contagiousness. The South African Medical Research Council even discovered that only a small number of hospitalised Omicron patients needed oxygen or intensive care unit (ICU) treatment.

Ten people are currently in hospital with Omicron in the UK, with one death.

“In areas where we know Omicron has been circulating for a bit longer, such as in South Africa, they are not seeing severe disease, maybe because they actually still have enough cross-reactive antibodies,” said Matthew Snape, professor in paediatrics and vaccinology at the University of Oxford, at a briefing in London on Monday.

Alastair Grant, a professor at the University of East Anglia, said the current hospitalisation rate for Omicron would probably be 20 per cent less than Delta, as the new variant is primarily infecting 20 to 40-year-olds who are less likely to be admitted to hospital.

World Health Organization (WHO) Chief Scientist Soumya Swaminathan has also asked the world not to panic over the Omicron variant because evidence shows most cases are mild or asymptomatic.

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