South Africa’s hospitalization rate plunges amid Omicron wave
The South African health minister has offered some encouraging Covid news, suggesting that the Omicron variant is causing much fewer hospitalizations than previous strains of the virus, while it is far more contagious.
Speaking on Friday, South African Health Minister Joe Phaahla said that the hospitalization rate during the current wave of infections, driven by the highly contagious Omicron variant, was lower than that seen during the third wave, earlier this year.
Only 1.7% of confirmed Covid-19 cases in the second week of the current fourth wave of the virus resulted in hospitalization. That’s compared with 19% who were hospitalized in the same week of the third wave, which was driven by the Delta variant, Phaahla said in an online press conference. He added that patients admitted in the fourth wave displayed “fairly mild” symptoms.
However, the minister warned that the variant was driving more cases than previous strains of Covid-19. He said there were around 20,000 cases a day, compared with 4,400 in the same week of the third wave.
He also contended that case numbers may have peaked in some areas, including Gauteng, the Highveld-based state that is home to major cities Johannesburg and Pretoria, where South Africa first identified the omicron variant.
Phaahla contended that all nine provinces were already in the grips of the new variant.
Omicron has spread across the globe and is particularly prevalent in the UK, driving a new wave of infections. Scientists say the new strain has the ability to evade immunity induced by existing vaccines and previous infection with another variant, prompting Britain to ramp up its ambitious booster campaign.