Since the Omicron variant has decided to turn itself into the newest menace causing a setback to the international economy, the newest report has it that the new SARS-CoV-2 variant may not be as tough as we’d expect.
A South African doctor by the name of Unben Pillay said despite the increasing number of cases each day, there hasn’t been the need for hospitalization.
Dr. Pillay isn’t the only one that shares this sentiment has other doctors and medical experts suspect that the omicron variant might just be causing milder COVID-19 when compared to the Delta variant – even though it seems to spread faster than the latter.
“They are able to manage the disease at home,” Pillay said of his patients. “Most have recovered within the 10 to 14-day isolation period,” said Pillay.
In fact among Pillay’s patients were older individuals and those with underlying health problems that would’ve made them much more susceptible to being hospitalized as a result of complications from COVID-19.
Apart from Dr. Pillay, other doctors in the southern part of Africa have reported similar stories since omicron first appeared in South Africa about two weeks ago.
Although these aren’t conclusive evidence yet as all doctors involved made it known that it will often take several weeks more in order to collect enough data that can be used for proper research in order to understand the state of the omicron version.
Below is a short statistics of the case
- Only about 30% of those hospitalized with COVID-19 in recent weeks have been seriously ill, less than half the rate as during the first weeks of previous pandemic waves
- Average hospital stays for COVID-19 have been shorter this time – about 2.8 days compared to eight days.
- Just 3% of patients hospitalized recently with COVID-19 have died, versus about 20% in the country’s earlier outbreaks.
“At the moment, virtually everything points toward it being a milder disease,” Willem Hanekom, director of the Africa Health Research Institute, said, citing the national institute’s figures and other reports.
“It’s early days, and we need to get the final data. Often hospitalizations and deaths happen later, and we are only two weeks into this wave.”
However, scientists across the globe are watching the number of cases in correlation with hospitalization rates while also testing out current vaccines and treatments in order to see if they hold up.
As of now, the Delta variant is still the dominant coronavirus strain across the globe even though the number of omicron cases is beginning to show in a number of countries while South Africa remains the epicenter.
Pillay practices in the country’s Gauteng province, where the omicron version has taken hold.
And for the record, Gauteng is the most populous province in the country with over 16 million residents.
The province saw a 400% rise in new cases in the first week of the month of December while testing made it clear that omicron amounts for over 90% of those cases.
Pillay says his COVID-19 patients during the last delta wave “had trouble breathing and lower oxygen levels. Many needed hospitalization within days,” he said.
The patients he’s treating now have milder, flu-like symptoms, such as body aches and a cough, he said.
He’s also a director of an association that represents about 5,000 general practitioners across South Africa and his colleagues have documented similar observations about omicron.
Another report came from Netcare which is the country’s largest private healthcare provider – also reported ess severe cases of COVID-19 due to Omicron.
Even with that, the number of cases continues to increase in the country with about 22,400 new cases being confirmed on Thursday alone and another 19,000 cases on Friday.
The new surge has infected 90,000 people in the past month, Minister of Health Joe Phaahla said Friday.
“Omicron has driven the resurgence,” Phaahla said, citing studies that say 70% of the new cases nationwide are from omicron.
The coronavirus reproduction rate in the current wave – indicating the number of people likely to be infected by one person — is 2.5, the highest that South Africa has recorded during the pandemic, he said.
“Because this is such a transmissible variant, we’re seeing increases like we never saw before,” said Waasila Jassat, who tracks hospital data for the National Institute for Communicable Diseases.
Out of the patients hospitalized in the current wave, about 86% of them weren’t vaccinated according to Jassat.
The intriguing part is also the fact that COVID-19 patients in the country are also younger compared to other periods of the pandemic – about two-third are under the age of 40.
Unless a drastic step is taken, the number of cases could potentially overwhelm hospitals in the country which could lead to severe complications and even fatalities according to Jassat.
“That is the danger always with the waves,” she said.