The variant strain Omicron of the young coronavirus he’s got cause an explosion of cases in South Africa, but at the moment the hospitalizations and deaths remain much less than those in the previous waves of the epidemic, health officials said today.
On Wednesday, South Africa recorded the highest number of cases the country has ever seen during the pandemic, due to the extremely rapid spread of the Omicron variant, said Michelle Grum, of the National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD).
“Hospitalizations are not growing at such a spectacular rate,” Grum added in a press conference. “We are starting to see some increases, but relatively small increases in deaths,” he said.
Wassila Jasat, also of the NICD, said the number of people in need of oxygen was “lower than it was in any of the previous waves” of the pandemic.
“Patients do appear to stay shorter in oxygen,” he added.
According to Health Minister Joe Faala, these figures do not indicate that Omicron is less contagious, but rather that COVID-19 vaccines can help prevent serious illnesses.
“This is probably due to a significant vaccination coverage,” especially among the elderly, he stressed.
About a third of the population is fully vaccinated against COVID-19, but that number rises to 66% in people over the age of 60.
The elderly are more at risk of developing severe symptoms of the disease caused by the new coronavirus.
The Omicron strain, which has many mutations, was first identified in South Africa and Botswana in November, causing worldwide panic, and looks more contagious than other strains of the new coronavirus.
With more than three million cases, South Africa is by far the country hardest hit by the new coronavirus pandemic on the African continent.