SA sees fewer in hospital as Omicron cases surge

SA sees fewer in hospital as Omicron cases surge

Infection rates are soaring across the country as a result of the Omicron variant continues to spread, but fewer people have died or required hospital treatment compared to previous waves of Covid.

Joe Phaahla

This according to health officials.


On Friday, the NICD’s Michelle Groome told journalists that earlier in the week, South Africa had recorded the highest number of new infections since the start of the pandemic.


"The hospitalisations are not increasing at such a dramatic rate," she told a news conference. 


"We are starting to see some increases, but relatively small increases in deaths."


NICD public health specialist Wassila Jassat said the number of people requiring oxygen was "lower than what it was in comparison to any of the previous wave periods”.


"Patients do seem to stay for a shorter duration," she said. 


Health Minister Joe Phaahla said that the data do not mean that Omicron is less virulent, but rather than vaccines are preventing serious illness.


"It's probably due to significant vaccine coverage," particularly among older people, he said.


About 31% of the population is fully vaccinated, but the number rises to 66% for people over 60. 


Older people are most at risk of developing serious symptoms.


The highly mutated Omicron strain was first detected in South Africa and Botswana last month, sparking global panic over fears that it is more contagious than other variants.


With more than three million cases, South Africa is by far the hardest-hit country on the continent.


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