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Omicron is spreading like wildfire

Preliminary information from around the world suggests that Omicron is significantly more contagious than its Sars-CoV-2 predecessors, but perhaps also less fatal.

However, experts warn that it is too early to confirm this because it usually takes a while before Covid-19 patients’ prognosis deteriorates.

In addition, the majority of current infections are among young people, who also have a lower risk of serious illness and death from the virus.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), Omicron has been confirmed in 38 countries, but so far no deaths as a result of this variant have been officially reported.

Covid-19 is again spreading like wildfire in South Africa. The Omicron variant is already dominant in Gauteng, where 11 533 new cases were reported on Friday night alone, according to statistics from the department of health. With 957 cases, the Western Cape has the second-largest number of new infections.New Covid-19 cases and the test positivity rate have skyrocketed since the end of last month.

By Friday night, 24.3% of all test results were positive, compared with 9.2% a week earlier. A total of 16 055 new cases were reported, compared with 2 828 last Friday.

Hospitalisations have also increased again. By yesterday morning, 3 202 Covid-19 patients were in hospital, of whom 274 were in intensive care, according to the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD). A week ago, there were 2 232 patients in hospital, of whom 231 were in intensive care.

Dr Waasila Jassat, a specialist at the NICD, said at a media conference on Friday that the current increase in infections had started among people aged between 10 and 29, but had since spread to all age groups.

According to Jassat, the institute is also monitoring hospital admissions among children younger than five, of whom there are significantly more than there have been during previous infection waves. About 11% of hospital admissions between November 14 and 27 were of children under the age of two, according to the NICD’s statistics.

This rise in Covid-19-related hospitalisations of young children may be partly attributable to doctors admitting them as a precautionary measure. Once in hospital, the children test positive for Covid-19, even though they have been admitted for other illnesses, such as flu.

According to Our World in Data, the scientific online publication of Oxford University, UK, the death rate from confirmed Covid-19 cases in South Africa is now 3.03%. The highest death rate among confirmed cases was about 3.4% between the end of March and May this year.

Professor Bruce Mellado, head of the Gauteng advisory committee on Covid-19, told news channel Bloomberg that they planned to share information with the South African government on Tuesday regarding a study on how sick Omicron made people.

As for the international isolation that South Africa has endured since the existence of Omicron in the country was announced earlier last month, Professor Ian Sanne of Wits University, who is a member of the ministerial advisory committee on Covid-19, said it would be short-lived.

“In the long run, we as a nation and scientists will get the credit we deserve. “We did the right thing. And by acting transparently and immediately announcing the news, we saved lives.”

According to Sanne, openness and cooperation were essential.

“There’s more cooperation between all the branches of science than I’ve seen in 30 years. This makes it possible for us to keep government informed,” he said.

–City Press


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