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Omicron infection ‘still mild’ – ONE MONTH after variant first emerged

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Dec 8, 2021

No-one likes to see COVID-19 cases explode out of nowhere: It’s almost always a harbinger of tougher times to come. But, as we learn more about the troublesome Omicron variant, it would appear this mutant strain isn’t behaving like any of its predecessors – and that *might* end up being a good thing.

Is Omicron mild? Variant data offers hope

Netcare has become the latest medical authority in South Africa to tentatively suggest that Omicron infections are ‘a lot more mild’ than anything they’ve seen before. It has been established that the new variant is more transmissible than Delta, and a THIRD vaccine shot may be required to protect against catching the virus.

However, since the first case of Omicron was traced back to South Africa on 8 November 2021, no hospitals in Mzansi have reported a desperate struggle for ICU beds, nor has there been a high demand for any ventilation aids.

Netcare reports ‘only mild illness’ from Omicron wave

Netcare CEO Richard Friedland made this statement earlier, revealing the state of play in their hospitals so far:

About 90% of COVID-19 patients currently in Netcare hospitals need no oxygen therapy.This is much better when compared to the past three waves, at similar points.Netcare also reports most cases are ‘incidental’ – meaning patients in for other ailments just happen to test positive for COVID-19.It’s understood that Omicron has been circulating in SA for over four weeks, but death rates remain incredibly low.Friedland hopes that, if current trends continue, the Omicron wave can be treated with ‘primary care’:

“The symptoms displayed by patients in Netcare’s hospitals in the epicenter of the current fourth wave, the province of Gauteng are far milder than anything we experienced during the first three waves.”

“While we fully recognize that it is still early days, if this trend continues, it would appear that with a few exceptions of those requiring tertiary care, the fourth wave can be adequately treated at a primary care level.”

Richard Friedland

Netcare ‘optimistic’ over new variant data for hospitals

Meanwhile, Mediclinic has also noted that there is now ‘a lower percentage of admitted COVID-19 patients who require intensive care and ventilation’ – findings that are consistent with research from both Netcare and the SA Medical Research Council. Yes, we’re seeing a sharp rise in infections – but all other indicators remain low.

Generally speaking, it takes about two or three weeks for hospitalisations and deaths to catch up with cases. It’s arguable that South Africa only became AWARE of Omicron a fortnight ago, and the worst is yet to come.

When do cases translate into hospitalisations and deaths?

As case rates go up, hospitalisations and deaths will also rise, as that’s the nature of the beast. But the operative word here is ‘proportion’. New infections in SA have essentially risen in a vertical line on the graph paper, but data for hospital admissions and mortality has remained relatively flat, with only the former showing a moderate increase.

Omicron has been with us for a month, and yet, we are still waiting for the worst effects to be felt.

Perhaps that is to come – this variant, after all, really doesn’t behave like the others – but the experts are all coming to similar conclusions. The infections are many, but the number of serious illnesses remains few.

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