When the Covid-19 Omicron variant was discovered in South Africa, health authorities moved quickly to notify the country and the world of its potential danger. The omicron or B.1.1.529 was concerning scientists in South Africa as it has 32 spike protein mutations.
In a Health Briefing on Wednesday, the National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NCID) revealed that Omicron patients had an 80% lower chance of hospital admission.
South Africa, and a number of other countries where the variant was detected, were then subjected to travel restrictions. These travel restrictions were later lifted when the variant was discovered in some of the countries that introduced the travel bans.
The NICD’s Professor Cheryl Cohen said, “when we compare Omicron to the Delta in the previous waves, amongst hospitalized people, [it] was significantly 70% less in severity. So all the data together are pointing to a very consistent predictor picture of a reduction in severity in South Africa”.
Cohan added that researchers have not yet determined how the lower severity and hospitailation levels is due to vaccination, previous infection or reduced virulence of the virus.
She added that data shows that people infected with Omicron have a higher viral load, which could result in it being more infectious.
More than 21 000 new cases of Covid-19 were reported in South Africa in the last 24 hours. Majority of the cases came from KwaZulu Natal (5 411) followed by the Western Cape (4 609) and Gauteng (3 807).
Around 38.85% or above 15.4 million adults are now fully vaccinated in South Africa, while more than 17.7 million adults received at least one shot of a Covid-19 vaccine. More than 873 000 children have received a Covid-19 vaccine.
Professor Guy Richards from Wits University explains that cases in Gauteng are on the decline as they began to experience their fourth wave of Covid-19 infections earlier than the other provinces.
Richards adds that around 80% of the population have antibodies either due to vaccination or due to having been infected with the virus. He explains that this may be a factor for the seemly shorter duration for infections.