Omicron lifeline as early data shows deaths and hospitalisations are low

Omicron: Dr Amir talks through the symptoms of the new strain

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The country’s Health Department said it will stay on “Adjusted Lockdown Level One”. South Africa dropped to this level, the lowest in a five-tier system of restrictions, in October and has seen no reason to move up to “Level Two”.

In a statement, officials said: “The Council has directed the Department to closely monitor the rising Covid infections.”

The latest figures published on Our World in Data show that just shy of 23,000 Covid cases were reported on Wednesday.

This is higher than at any other point in the pandemic in South Africa.

Ten days prior to this, the figure was just over 10,000, which itself was a more than ten-fold increase on the number of cases reported another 10 days before that.

But the figures for hospitalisations and deaths are far more positive.

A study suggests that the variant is causing fewer hospitalisations than Delta did before it.

Likewise, the number of reported total deaths – that is, from all Covid strains – is coming down, not going up, meaning Omicron has not caused a resurgence.

Fifty-four deaths were reported across South Africa on Wednesday.

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On December 5, the figure dropped to one.

This follows from highs of 600 per day in summer.

These figures come amid low Covid vaccination rates in South Africa, with only around a quarter of citizens double jabbed, according to Our World in Data.

Less than one-third of South Africans have received at least one dose of a Covid vaccine.

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South Africa alerted the world to the emerging variant in November and has been working to understand its nature ever since.

The above figures appear to confirm the views of the UK Government advisors who insisted that the variant was not a cause for panic late last month.

Before cases were identified in the UK, Professor Calum Semple from Sage said: “This is not a disaster, and the headlines from some of my colleagues saying ‘this is horrendous’ I think are hugely overstating the situation.”

Despite this, Prime Minister Boris Johnson held a press conference after just two cases of the variant were discovered in the country and announced the introduction of new restrictions.

This has since been followed by further restrictive measures, including the introduction of vaccine passports as part of its “Plan B”, which is similar to the ramping up of measures across Europe.

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