South Africa’s Omicron virus outbreak seemed to have slowed on Saturday, as a leading expert claimed that hospitalisations were kept low by the population’s immune system against Covid-19. He also praised South Africa for its refusal to lock down.

Nationally, 17,154 cases have been reported over the past 24 hour, which is approximately 4.8 per cent more than last week. It also represents around 1000 additional cases than the number of the same Saturday.

However, at the start of the week, there were over 90% weekly cases rises. There were 22,391 cases on Thursday, almost twice as many than the Thursday before. 

Omicron in South Africa has resulted in a lower number of hospitalisations than Delta’s, leading to the possibility that it may be a milder variant of the virus.

Experts caution, however that Covid could also be responsible for the infected younger population.

It is not clear how Omicron infection-induced immune system compares with the vaccination-induced immunity found in Western nations, such as the US.

On Saturday, there were 36 deaths related to Covid-19. This is the highest number since Wednesday. The country also reported a 16.4 per cent test positive rate.

According to South Africa’s National Institute for Communicable Diseases – NICD:

  • In recent weeks, only 30% of COVID-19 patients admitted to hospital were seriously ill. That’s less than half of the number of people who had been infected during earlier pandemic waves.
  • This time, average COVID-19 hospital stays were a little shorter – 2.8 days as compared to the eight days.
  • Only 3 percent of COVID-19-infected patients have been confirmed to be dead, as opposed to 20 percent during the earlier epidemics.

Shabir Madhi, a professor of Vaccinology at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, gave an optimistic analysis of South Africa’s Covid-19 situation, and the risk of the Omicron variant.

On Twitter, he stated that while the nation’s infection rate is much lower than in the three previous waves, but that there was evidence that hospitalizations are still low relative the volume of cases.

“Three Weeks into the Resurgence, Many Adults and Children Test SARS-CoV-2 [positive]In hospital, however, COVID hospitalisation continues to be low relative the community case rates,’ he said on Friday.  

Pictured: A boy gets vaccinated against COVID-19 at a site near Johannesburg, December 8, 2021. South Africa's Omicron outbreak appeared to slow on Saturday as an expert said the country's population's T-cell immunity against Covid-19 has kept hospitalisations low, and praised the government for not locking down

Pictured: A boy gets vaccinated against COVID-19 at a site near Johannesburg, December 8, 2021. South Africa’s Omicron epidemic appeared to be slowing on Saturday, as an expert stated that the country’s T-cell immunity for Covid-19 had kept hospitalisations down and praised government officials for their inability to lock them down.

The National Institute for Communicable Diseases of South Africa reported that 17,154 Covid cases had been reported in south Africa over the past 24 hours. That’s around 1000 more than the number from the week prior. Below is a graph that shows South Africa’s new daily Covid cases

Shabir Madhi (pictured), a professor of Vaccinology at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, gave an optimistic analysis of South Africa's Covid-19 situation, and the risk of the Omicron variant. Writing on Twitter, he said that the infection rate had been much faster than any of the country's previous three waves, but said there were signs that hospitalisations were remaining low relative to the number of cases

Shabir Madhi, a Professor of Vaccinology at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg gave an optimistic assessment of South Africa’s Covid-19 situation and the Omicron variant risk. He wrote on Twitter that the nation’s infection rate was much higher than the previous two waves. However, there are signs that hospitalisations remain low in relation to the total number of cases.

Writing on Twitter (pictured) Shabir Madhi, a professor of Vaccinology at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, gave an optimistic analysis of South Africa's Covid-19 situation, and the risk of the Omicron variant

On Twitter, Shabir Madhi (pictured), a Professor of Vaccinology from the University of the Witwatersrand gave an optimistic view of South Africa’s Covid-19 situation as well as the possibility of the Omicron variant.

He said that the death rate was lower than in waves with similar cases. “Death Rate very low in comparison to the same period of case rates in previous waves.” Professor wrote that although the trends for next week are informative and likely to increase, they will not be as strong as in previous waves. 

He used South Africa’s Gauteng Province (with its Omicron ground zero) as an example. According to him, the probable explanation for the low death rates is that 73% of the population were either vaccinated, or had been infected with T-cell immunity. He said that the majority of patients with severe Covid are fully vaccinated.

Professor Madhi went on to praise the South African government for not panicking and imposing more Covid-19 restrictions with the outbreak of the Omicron variant, that was first reported by the country to the World Health Organisation on November 24, and designated it variant of concern by the health body two days later.

He stated that the government’s response was to remain calm and avoid increasing restrictions. They also don’t panic with an increase in case numbers. Instead, they seem to be focusing more on COVID (excluding coincidental Ix), hospitalisation, and capacity of health facilities.

In another positive sign, reported cases in Gauteng on Saturday were also lower for the second day running, where infections rose by 43 per cent in a week on Thursday. On Saturday, almost half the reported cases in Gauteng were from this province.

KwaZulu-Natal (15%), followed by Western Cape (9%). North West had 7 percent, Eastern Cape, Free State Limpopo, Mpumalanga, and Free State each made around 3-5% each. The Northern Cape was at 1%.

Although Gauteng continues to produce a large number of Omicron cases, Mail analysis suggests that Gauteng’s Omicron epidemic has reached its peak after the epicenter saw a drop in cases.

One British expert claimed that while there are still some uncertainties about the Omicron variant’s effect, modeling can be improved as additional data is available.

According to scientists advising Britain’s Government, Omicron could cause anywhere from 25,000 to 75,000 deaths in England within the next five-months.

The forecast is for a wave of infections that could result in more than 2000 daily hospital admissions. There will be 175,000 admissions to the hospital and 24700 deaths. Even under the best scenario, this may not happen. 

Modellers see the worst scenario – a low immune escape and less effectiveness of boosters. If no other control measures are implemented, it is predicted that a tsunami of infections will cause hospital admissions to peak around twice the rate of January 2021.

According to the unpublished study, this could lead to 492,000 hospitalizations and 74 800 deaths. 

Pictured: A data graphic released by South Africa's National Institute for Communicable Diseases showing the latest figures in the country, and in its nine provinces. Gauteng made up almost half of the country's reported infections on Saturday. This is followed by KwaZulu-Natal (15 percent), and Western Cape which accounted for 9 per cent. North West accounted for 7 percent; Eastern Cape, Free State, Limpopo and Mpumalanga each accounted for around 3-5 percent each; and Northern Cape accounted for 1 percent

Pictured: A data graphic released by South Africa’s National Institute for Communicable Diseases showing the latest figures in the country, and in its nine provinces. Nearly half of all reported infected persons in the country were from Gauteng on Saturday. KwaZulu-Natal (14 percent) and the Western Cape (9%) followed. North West was responsible for 7 percent, while Eastern Cape, Free State and Limpopo each contributed around 3-5% each. The Northern Cape was responsible for 1%.

Pictured: Puseletso Lesofi prepares to sequence COVID-19 omicron samples at the Ndlovu Research Center in Elandsdoorn, South Africa, December 8, 2021

Pictured: Puseletso lesofi is preparing to sequence COVID-19 micron samples at Ndlovu Research Center, Elandsdoorn (South Africa), December 8, 2021

According to figures, the Omicron virus cases in South African Province at the epicenter of Omicron are already high. The graph shows Gauteng’s daily and average covid cases. This is in contrast to Gauteng’s predicted 25% daily increase cases, which has been shown since November 15.

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

Above graphs display data on cases, Covid hospitalisations (left) and ICU admissions in the Omicron (red), and Delta (blue), waves. Both waves began on the date South Africa first reported a case for each variant. While the Covid hospitalisations in each wave are comparable (pictured centre), doctors working on the frontlines of South Africa have indicated that the current number of patients requiring ICU admissions is significantly lower than 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

In the Omicron (left), and Delta (right), waves are shown how much Covid hospitalized in Gauteng. Each wave began at the time South Africa had announced the first instance of this variant. The ICU admission rate for Covid sufferers is only a third that of patients admitted during the Delta wave. Experts believe this could indicate that the mutant strain may be less serious than initially thought.

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

Above is the percentage of Covid patients who were hospitalized during Omicron and Delta waves. This shows that the current level of Covid is only about a third as high as they were in Delta’s time. When South Africa first reported each of the mutant strains in its country, it set the start date for both waves.

Pictured: A throat swab is taken from a patient to test for COVID-19 at a facility in Soweto, South Africa, December 2, 2021

Pictured: A throat swab is taken from a patient to test for COVID-19 at a facility in Soweto, South Africa, December 2, 2021

Paul Hunter from the University of East Anglia is Professor of Medicine. He said that any model is as good as what it assumes. This model also holds that the severity of disease in omicron will be similar to Delta for unvaccinated individuals.

Although we won’t know the exact cause for Omicron for several weeks, signs from South Africa indicate that Omicron is more severe than Delta. This could also be due to partial immunity.

“Early as yet, not peer-reviewed data suggests that Omicron mutations can be sufficient to escape antibodies. However, T cell immunity might be compromised.

According to T cell immunity, it’s more crucial for severe diseases than for milder infections.

He stated that there was still uncertainty about how severe Omicron might be in the UK context. These models will be improved as more data is available over the coming weeks.

Sky News’ Prof Hunter answered questions later about whether the Government was playing a guessing game with the current situation. Experts still have information on Omicron that is so close to Christmas.

‘Quite right. Yeah, absolutely. This is the toughest decision that we have made in all of this pandemic due to the uncertain outcome,’ he stated.

He stated that although the modelers are among the most skilled in the country they still have to work on some assumptions.

He said, “And until we have that data, we won’t really be able to know for certain.”

Prof Hunter stated that there were significant uncertainties in a variety of models currently being used, including how Delta will react to Omicron.

Boris Johnson, the British prime minister announced on Wednesday that England would be entering full Plan B regulations starting next week. Experts had warned about Omicron. A few restrictions, such as indoor masking in public places, were put into effect on Friday.

MailOnline’s analysis of South African hospital rates shows that Omicron causes less severe illnesses than the predecessors. Omicron has resulted in 60% less hospitalized patients getting to ICU in Gauteng, compared with 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 this strain causes milder diseases, hospitals will be notified if they become too severe.  

A nasal swab is taken to test for COVID-19 at a site near Johannesburg, Decemver 8, 2021

An otoscopy is done to check for COVID-19 in the nose at Decemver 8, 2021, near Johannesburg.

A healthcare worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine, amidst the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 variant Omicron, in Johannesburg, South Africa, December 9, 2021

In the midst of Omicron-like spread in Johannesburg, South Africa (December 9, 2021), a healthcare worker makes a Pfizer coronavirus vaccine (COVID-19).

South African Doctor Unben Pilay said that he was seeing many sick patients every day. But he doesn’t have to admit anyone.

This is one reason why Dr. Yong and others suspect that the Omicron version of COVID-19 may be milder than Delta, even though the spread seems faster.

Pillay said that most patients are capable of managing the disease at their home. Most patients have made a full recovery within the 10- to 14-day isolation. said Pillay.

He added that older patients as well as those who have chronic health issues can be more susceptible to severe illness from coronavirus infections.

Two weeks have passed since the first report of omicron in Southern Africa. Other doctors also shared similar stories. Although it is likely that more data will be collected over time, the doctors’ observations and early evidence provide some indications.

Willem Hanekom from Africa Health Research Institute stated, Citing figures of the National Institute and other reports, that “it is almost all evidence to it being milder.” “It is early, so we still need the final data. We are just two weeks into the wave of hospitalizations, deaths and other medical procedures.

Scientists around the globe are monitoring hospitalization rates and case counts, and testing current treatments and vaccines to determine if they work. Omicron cases continue to appear in many countries around the world, although delta remains the predominant coronavirus strain.

Pillay practices medicine in Gauteng Province, South Africa. There the omicron variant has gained popularity. South Africa’s biggest province with 16 million people, Pretoria is the capital. Johannesburg is the largest city. According to officials, Gauteng experienced a 400% increase in cases during the first week in December. Testing shows that omicron was responsible for over 90%.

Pillay said that COVID-19-infected patients from the previous delta wave “had difficulty breathing” and had lower oxygen levels. Pillay said that many of his COVID-19 patients needed to be admitted within a matter of days. His current patients have more mild flu-like symptoms like bodyaches and coughs.

Pillay is the director of an association which represents about 5,000 general physicians in South Africa. His colleagues also made similar observations on omicron. The largest provider of private healthcare, Netcare, also reports less severe COVID-19 cases.

The number of cases continues to rise. South Africa reported 224,000 cases of new infections on Thursday and 19,000 on Saturday, an increase from the 200 or so per day just a few weeks back. Minister of Health Joe Phaahla stated Friday that the recent surge in cases has affected 90,000 people.

Phaahla claimed that Omicron was the driving force behind the resurgence. He cited studies showing that 70% are Omicron cases.

According to him, 2.5 is the coronavirus replication rate for the current wave. It indicates the probability of one person becoming infected.

Waasila jassat (National Institute for Communicable Disorders) tracks data from hospitals.

Jassat stated that 86% of the hospitalized patients in this current wave were not vaccinated against coronavirus. South Africa’s COVID patients are now younger than ever during the pandemic. About two thirds of them are below 40.

Jassat indicated that, even though the signs appear to be less severe in the beginning stages of the disease, South Africa may continue experiencing an increase in the number of COVID-19-related cases.

She said, “That’s the danger that’s always with the waves.” 

Christina Pagel (a University College London mathematician who has been closely following the epidemic) said that since November 15, infections in Gauteng have increased by around 25% per day.

Melva Mlambo, right, and Puseletso Lesofi, both medical scientists prepare to sequence COVID-19 omicron samples at the Ndlovu Research Center in Elandsdoorn, South Africa, December. 8, 2021

Melva Mambo and Puseletso Leofi are both medical scientists, and they prepare for the December sequence of COVID-19 Omicron Samples at Ndlovu Research Center (Elandsdoorn), South Africa. 8, 2021

Omicron might be more mild than Delta according to WHO chief claims 

According to WHO Wednesday, early evidence suggests that the Omicron Covid variation may not cause severe disease as previous versions. It could however reinfect those who have been infected with the virus and/or beenvaccinated.

Tedros Adhanom, chief of World Health Organization, stated that emerging data from South Africa indicates an increased risk for reinfection with Omicron. He also said that there is some evidence Omicron can cause milder diseases than Delta.

However, he said that there was more data needed to make a firm conclusion and encouraged countries around the world to improve their surveillance systems to provide an even better view of Omicron’s behaviour.

As global concerns grew about the highly mutated variant of the virus, the hopeful assessment came at a time when many nations reimposed border restrictions. This has raised concern that there may be a return of economically harsh lockdowns.

Tedros advised against taking a break from vigilance, even though Omicron may cause less severe diseases.

He warned that a lack of complacency in the present would lead to death.

Michael Ryan, WHO emergency director, agreed. He pointed out that the data so far indicates that the variant is “efficiently transmitting and possibly more efficiently transmitting even though the Delta variant.”

He stated that “that does not mean the virus can’t be stopped,”

“But this means that the virus transmits more efficiently between humans. 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 underscored the importance of vaccines, noting that, even though Omicron vaccinations are less effective than some data suggest, severe diseases can still be prevented by them.

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

She noted that there were only a few studies and the reduction of ‘neutralizing activity’ was not significant in all studies. It varied from 4 to 5 fold in certain experiments to as high as 40fold in other studies.

The neutralisation of antibodies was also not considered, even though ‘we know that the immune systems is more complicated than that’, said Sheri.

“So, I believe it’s prematurely to conclude that this reduced neutralizing activity would result in an important reduction in vaccine efficacy,” she stated. We don’t know.

According to her, Thursday’s infection rates were lower than the trend over the past four days. This suggests that cases are likely to be reversing their exponential growth. 

Professor Pagel is a member UK’s Independent Sage Group and has often advocated for tighter restrictions. In addition, she accused ministers from underestimating the severity of outbreaks. Her optimistic prediction that Omicron might have been exterminated in South Africa’s ground zero province within a month could indicate the UK will be able to contain its outbreak, which is contrary to what some experts are predicting. 

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

South Africa will begin giving Pfizer boost shots for coronavirus next month, according to a health official. The announcement comes just days after South Africa posted a record-breaking number of cases.

Dr Nicolas Crisp from the Health Ministry, said at a weekly press conference that “the first persons who will qualify to receive the booster dose in South Africa”

Experts are currently determining whether existing Covid vaccines against this new mutation will be effective. This was determined by South African scientists last week. 

In early July, more than 26,000 infections were reported in the country. This was the highest day-total in this country.

Health practitioners last month had already started being offered Johnson & Johnson shots as boosters.

South Africa is the country most severely affected by the coronavirus. It has a record of over 3.09 million infections, 90,000 being fatal.

Omicron could be immune to some antibody protection from Pfizer’s BioNTech vaccine. This was based on a small, unreviewed study that the African Health Research Institute conducted this week.

However, the authors of this report stated that there is no reason for vaccines to prevent severe diseases caused by the variant.

A little more than 25% of South Africa’s people are fully immunized, while the number for adults is only 33%.

South Africa is aiming to vaccine around 70% of its population in March 2022, despite low vaccination rates.

Crisp claims that the company delayed receiving more order doses last month because it was unable to get vaccines in time.

Omicron is responsible for about 70% of all new infections in South Africa. It has displaced the Delta strain’very quickly,’ Health Minister Joe Phaahla stated.

Gauteng is known as the “economic hub” and hosts Johannesburg, Pretoria capital.

He said that hospitalized patients have so far only mild symptoms.

Omicron has been identified as the most dominant type in wastewater samples by South African Medical Research Council, (SAMRC). This includes the tourist capital of Cape Town.

Rabia Johnson (deputy director of the government research organization), stated that the Omicron variant was found in eleven of twelve (92%) wastewater samples taken from Cape Town’s treatment plants on Friday.