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South African study finds Omicron less likely to cause severe disease than other COVID-19 strains


There’s been a promising development in the global fight against Omicron.

A new study from South Africa has found that people diagnosed with the new COVID-19 strain are 70-80 per cent less likely to be admitted to hospital than those with other variants.

“Compellingly, together, our data really suggest a positive story of a reduced severity of Omicron compared to other variants,” said Professor Cheryl Cohen of the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD).

She said this was further reinforced by surveillance data showing significantly lower hospitalisations and deaths in South Africa’s latest wave of infections, even though case numbers were much higher than earlier outbreaks.

However there are still concerns that even if Omicron is milder, the sheer number of cases could overwhelm hospitals.

A new study from South Africa has revealed how likely the new COVID strain is to land you in hospital.
A new study from South Africa has revealed how likely the new COVID strain is to land you in hospital. Credit: Getty Images

It is also not yet known whether the high number of people in South Africa who had already been infected with COVID-19 is impacting the data.

An estimated 60 to 70 per cent of people in South Africa have had a prior COVID-19 infection.

“It is difficult to disentangle the relative contribution of high levels of previous population immunity versus intrinsic lower virulence to the observed lower disease severity,” Cohen said.

The study was carried out by a group of scientists from the NICD and major institutions including University of the Witwatersrand and University of KwaZulu-Natal.

Omicron is 70-80 per cent less likely to cause severe disease, according to researchers.
Omicron is 70-80 per cent less likely to cause severe disease, according to researchers. Credit: Getty Images

Past the peak?

South Africa has recorded a noticeable drop in new COVID-19 cases in recent days, signalling that its latest infection surge may have passed its peak

After hitting a high of nearly 27,000 new cases nationwide on Thursday, the numbers dropped to about 15,424 on Tuesday.

In Gauteng province – South Africa’s most populous region, with 16 million people, including the largest city, Johannesburg, and the capital, Pretoria – the decrease started earlier and has continued.

“The drop in new cases nationally combined with the sustained drop in new cases seen here in Gauteng province, which for weeks has been the centre of this wave, indicates that we are past the peak,” Marta Nunes, senior researcher at the Vaccines and Infectious Diseases Analytics department of the University of Witwatersrand, told The Associated Press.

– With AAP



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