Record Number of Infections, But Fewer Deaths: South Africa Seems Past Peak of Omicron Wave

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In South Africa, the fourth corona wave seems to have reached its peak. As a result, the authorities are abolishing the curfew. Although the omicron variant has led to a record number of infections, fewer people have been hospitalized and died from the virus compared to other waves.

The omicron variant was first discovered on November 23 in South Africa. Immediately several countries cancelled flights to and from the country. The fourth wave had thus started in South Africa. The variant also caused the highest number of infections yet identified: more than 23,000 cases were recorded per day in mid-December. The variant is now causing a new wave of infections worldwide.

Yesterday, the South African authorities announced that the fourth corona wave appears to have peaked. As a result, the number of infections and the positivity ratio (the number of positive cases out of 100 tests taken) are going down. In addition, the increase in the number of new hospital admissions appears to be slowing down. As a result, the curfew was lifted again between midnight and 4 a.m. Currently, the country is in the lowest stage of the five covid alert phases.

Data from the South African Department of Health shows that the number of infections has fallen by 29.7 percent in a week. Specifically, the number of infections fell from 127,753 cases between December 13 and 19 to 89,781 between December 20 and 26. On a daily basis, they now have an average of 11,500 confirmed infections. The number of confirmed infections is undoubtedly an underestimate of the real number of infections.

“While the omicron variant is highly contagious, there have been fewer hospital admissions in this wave compared to previous waves,” the authorities said. Last week, 8,413 people were admitted. This week, the counter is provisionally at 3,201 admissions.

According to local experts, South African hospitals never reached the maximum occupancy rate they achieved in previous waves. “Routine check-ups can even take place”, correspondent Elles van Gelder tells in “De Morgen” on Radio 1. Patients would also be admitted for a shorter period of time. In general, the variant seems to make people less seriously ill than previous mutations of the coronavirus.

While the omicron variant is highly contagious, there have been fewer hospital admissions in this wave compared to previous waves

The death toll has increased only slightly during this fourth wave. At its peak (December 26), about 66 people died during this wave. On December 29, 50 people died and 57 yesterday from the consequences of a corona infection. In comparison, during the deadliest wave, there were more than 500 deaths per day around the peak period.

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