Omicron-stricken South Africa’s daily Covid cases soared to another five-month high today, official figures showed — but data suggests infections in the country’s ground ‘zero’ may now be flattening. 

According to the National Institute for Communicable Diseases, 22391 national cases have been detected over the last 24 hours. This is almost twice the number of the Thursday before.

The number of daily hospitalisations has risen by 65% in one week, with 453 patients admitted to the wards. However, doctors at the frontlines claim that this is not a serious problem. 

Analysing hospitalization rates shows that 60% fewer patients have been moved to ICU, and 70% fewer are being placed on ventilators.

A promising sign is that the number of daily Covid deaths fell by half over a week. Another 22 were also recorded. It can take up to one month for fatalities to begin to reflect increases in cases. 

Covid cases appear to be levelling off in Omicron ground ‘zero’ Gauteng, where infections rose by 43 per cent in a week today — the smallest increase in a month.

British experts have described the sign as “tentatively good news”, and suggested that it may indicate that there is a reversal of the epidemic earlier than expected.

But it is not clear whether this is down to a lack of testing in the area, with the positivity rate — the proportion of tests that pick up the virus — in South Africa still high at 29.8 per cent suggesting many cases are missed. This should never exceed 5 percent, according to the World Health Organization.

Boris Johnson, the English ambassador to Plan B announced yesterday that England will begin using Plan B rules as soon as possible after experts said it would result in a quarter of a million new cases per year and 1,000 hospital admissions each day by next New Year.

MailOnline’s analysis of South African hospital rates shows that Omicron causes less severe illnesses than the predecessors. This variant is responsible for 60% fewer patients being admitted to intensive care in Gauteng than Delta.

WHO officials say ‘the number of admissions is very low’ in South Africa compared to those seen during the Delta wave — despite infections being higher than with the previous strain.

Even if it causes milder symptoms, the infection can lead to serious complications that could result in hospitalisations.

South Africa's daily Covid cases have hit their highest level in five months again today, amid the rampant spread of the Omicron varaint

South Africa’s Covid cases per day have reached their highest levels in 5 months.

Cases have surged in Gauteng at the epicentre, but they are now also rising quickly in KwaZulu-Natal and the Western Cape

Gauteng is the epicentre of the surge in cases. But they’re also on the rise in KwaZulu-Natal, and in the Western Cape.

Figures suggest that the number of cases of covid has already reached its peak in South Africa’s province, at the epicenter for the Omicron epidemic. Figure: Gauteng’s average and daily cases are shown in red. These numbers were compared with the 25 percent daily increase that had been predicted since November 15, 2015.

Daily updates are published by the NICD on Covid deaths, hospitalisations, and cases in Covid.

Its latest figures show that infections are still more than quadrupling week-on-week in three of the country’s nine provinces — KwaZulu-Natal, Free State and Eastern Cape.

Cases more than doubled in the other five — Limpopo, North West, Mpumalanga, Northern Cape and Western Cape — while the epicentre Gauteng saw the lowest increase in its cases in the country.

Omicron is milder than Delta. This was one of the chief WHO claims. 

The WHO reported Wednesday that early data suggests the Omicron Covid variant could cause milder diseases than other variants. However, it can also reinfect more people who are already vaccinated or have had previous exposure to the virus.

Tedros Adhanom Gabreyesus, World Health Organization’s chief, said to reporters that “emerging data” from South Africa suggested an increase in Omicron-related reinfections.

He stressed the need for more information to draw firm conclusions and asked countries to increase their surveillance in order to get a better picture of Omicron’s behavior.

As global concerns grew about the mutation, many countries reimposed border restrictions. The possibility of economic sanctions being reinstated has also prompted hopeful statements.

Tedros cautioned against slowing down in your fight against Omicron, even if Omicron is less dangerous.

He said, “Any complacency now can cost lives,”

Michael Ryan, WHO’s emergency director, said that the WHO variant was ‘efficiently transmitting’ and is likely to transmit more than the Delta version.

He said, “That doesn’t mean the virus cannot be stopped.”

It means the virus can transmit between people more effectively. We must redouble efforts to stop the transmission of viruses between people to ensure our own safety.

He said that even though the new variant is less harmful than other variants, it can still transmit more quickly and cause more illness, burdening health systems, and causing more deaths.

WHO experts stressed importance of vaccination. Some data suggest that Omicron vaccines are less effective than some others, however, this does not mean they cannot provide severe protection.

Soumya Swaminathan (chief WHO scientist) cautioned against rushing to judgment about early research that suggested the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine could have reduced effectiveness in fighting the new variant.

She pointed out, however, that these studies were very small. The reduction in ‘neutralizing activities’ varied greatly between studies. Some experiments showed a four- to fivefold decrease in neutralizing activity while others revealed a 40-fold increase.

The neutralization of antibodies was also not considered, even though ‘we know that the immune system has much more complexity than that’, said Sheri.

She stated, “So it seems premature to conclude this reduction neutralizing activity would result in significant reductions in vaccine effectiveness.” We don’t know.

Christina Pagel, an independent member of SAGE and a mathematician, has stated that the data suggest Gauteng may have retreated a month after its outbreak.

On social media, she wrote: “There are some tentative positive news from Gauteng this Week. This suggests that cases may be reaching their peak.”

However, she said this might be because of the lack of swabs in some cases.

She said that infections were rising at an average rate of 25 percent per day from the middle month. This would make them reach around 19,000 now.

Gauteng data shows that there were 11791 cases of new infections in the area yesterday. Daily infection rates are lower than the trend over the past four days. 

The average number of infections in this area is now 9,645 per day, an increase from 3,801 the week before. 

Gauteng authorities increased the number test results from 89.020 to November 27th to 167.321 to December 4th, the most recent available.

During that period, positivity — the proportion of tests that came back positive — increased from 16.3 per cent to 35 per cent.

The days when this trend was highlighted are yet to be available. It is therefore impossible to know if actual infections have been increasing exponentially, even though positive tests were not. 

In England, Johnson has activated the Covid emergency plan last night to address fears that the strain could cause one million new infections and 1,000 daily NHS admissions.

Tory MPs vented fury at the Prime Minister over anti-Omicron actions, described as “nonsensical”

Millions of office workers will be asked to work from home starting Monday. Masks will be required for cinemas and theatres. Covid passports will be introduced for big venues and nightclubs. Critics were furious when the PM said that Christmas party should be held at work, prompting ridicule from others.

Sage had warned that the variant’s mutations and vaccine escape made it more dangerous than ever before. The variant has been infected twice daily compared with Delta’s seven. Sage was able to convince Sage to put restrictions in place.

Even though the strain may cause milder diseases than the predecessors, the surge in hospital admissions could be as severe as the previous wave due to the large number of individuals who might become infected.

Omicron has been implicated in fewer severe and hospitalizations than previous Omicrons, according to preliminary WHO data from South Africa.

Today, Dr Thierno balde, WHO Africa’s operational partnerships manager, stated that there has been a significant increase in the number of cases over the last seven days, an increase of almost 25%.

“We have also seen a 12 Percent increase in hospitalisations within the last 24hrs.”

“But, when we compare Omicron with Delta, we find that the admissions are very low. However it’s important to keep in mind that we’re still at the beginning of the wave and need to wait longer to see.

He said, “We monitor the situation daily.

“In terms the current situation, yes we see an increase of hospitalisation but we can’t say that it is causing tension in the hospitals.

‘There are six per cent of ICU beds occupied by Covid patients, so there is still a large capacity left to look after patients — which may be needed in coming weeks or it may not.’

Tedros Adhanom from WHO, the director-general of WHO, said yesterday that there was an increase in Omicron infection risk due to emerging data coming out of South Africa.

“There’s also some evidence Omicron can cause milder illness than Delta,”  

The above graphs compare cases (left), Covid hospitalisations (centre) and ICU admissions (right) during the Omicron (red) and Delta (blue) waves. The start date for both waves was set as when South Africa announced its first case of each variant. Although the number of Covid hospitalisations (centre) is similar during both waves doctors on South Africa's frontlines have said there are far fewer patients needing ICU admissions and ventilators than at the same point in the Delta wave. This is backed up by official data (left) which shows the number of ICU admissions is currently at a third of the level it was during the Delta wave

These graphs show comparisons between cases (left), Covid hospitalisations and ICU admissions during Omicron and Delta waves (red and blue). Both waves began on the date South Africa first reported a case for each variant. While the Covid hospitalisations are similar in both waves, doctors at South Africa’s frontlines claim that there is far less need for ICU admissions or ventilators now than during the Delta wave. Official data (left), which indicates that the current level of ICU admissions are only a third what it was in the Delta wave, backs this up 

The proportion of Covid patients hospitalised in Gauteng, South Africa's Omicron epicentre, is shown during the Omicron (left) and Delta (right) waves. The start of each wave was marked as when South Africa announced its first case of the variant. Figures show that at present the ICU admission rate for Covid patients is just a third of the level seen at the same point during the Delta wave. Experts say this may suggest that the mutant strain is less severe than first feared

During the Omicron and Delta waves, you can see how many Covid patients were admitted to Gauteng (South Africa’s Omicron epicentre). Each wave began at the time South Africa had announced its first instance of this variant. The ICU admission rate for Covid sufferers is only a third that of patients admitted during the Delta wave. This may indicate that the mutation is not as severe as first thought, experts say.

The above shows the proportion of hospitalised Covid patients on ventilators during the Omicron (left) and Delta (right) waves. It reveals that levels are currently at a third of what they were when Delta took hold as well. The start date for both waves was set as when South Africa announced its first case of each mutant strain in the country

Below is a graph showing the ratio of Covid hospitalized patients using ventilators in the Omicron (left), and Delta (right). The data shows that current levels are only a third what they were before Delta was established. When South Africa first reported each of the mutant strains in its country, it set the start date for both waves.

He stressed the need for more information to draw firm conclusions and asked countries to increase their surveillance in order to get a better picture of Omicron’s behavior.

Tedros advised against slowing down in your fight against Omicron even though it may turn out to be less serious. He warned that if we allow ourselves to become complacent, it will lead us to lose our lives.

Michael Ryan, WHO’s emergency director, said that the WHO variant was ‘efficiently transmitting’ and is likely to transmit more than the Delta version.

MailOnline’s analysis of Omicron yesterday revealed that it is leading to fewer hospitalizations than Delta in a similar time period after being first identified in South Africa.

Gauteng had 139 Covid hospital patients who were admitted to intensive care units on Monday. It was just two weeks since the nation’s last wave. This represented 8 per cent infected patients that were admitted to treatment.

Comparatively, ICUs had 393 patients with HIV in the first two weeks following Delta’s departure from the province. That is 24 percent. 

NICD figures showed that in the latest week — roughly a fortnight after the strain was first detected — there were 1,371 Covid-infected patients in the province’s hospitals every day, on average.

Some 103 people were taken to ICUs (8%) and others were attached to ventilators (2%)

Comparatively, the Delta wave’s second week saw 1,578 people in hospitals every day (24%) and 153 in ICU (9%)

The overall rate of hospital admissions to the province is the same as it was during the Delta wave.

However, fewer cases are serious and require patients to be in ICUs or connected to ventilators.