Omicron Variant in South Africa
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South Africa’s escalating coronavirus cases owing to the Omicron variant has decreased at the same time it has increased, with its fourth wave now considered “over.”
The variant was first discovered by researchers in South Africa about 8 weeks ago, and then the infections rapidly spread across the globe. The country is back to normal, with bustling businesses, restaurants, CBS News reported.
The news provides hope for other countries that their Omicron surges could soon be over. However, hospitalizations and deaths didn’t rise as dramatically in South Africa as they have elsewhere, CBS News noted.
In the Delta variant wave six months ago, hospitals in South Africa were overwhelmed, with beds in the intensive care units and oxygen supplies running low according to the news outlet. During the Omicron variant wave, however, hospitals were not able to accommodate patients and oxygen was not available to many patients.
Health experts from the public sector said that the vaccines and the high rate of infection in South Africa before Omicron hit are believed to have increased the collective immunity. This has led to less cases of deaths and severe illnesses that have been brought on by the most recent wave.
“The Omicron wave now accounts for less than 5% of all deaths that have occurred due to COVID-19 [in South Africa] since the outbreak of the disease,” Shabir Madhi, PhD vaccinologist at the University of the Witwatersrand, told the news outlet.
More COVID-19 variants are likely to be discovered, he added, but the high hospitalization rates and death tolls could be over.
“I’m very hopeful that we’ve reached an important turning point in this pandemic,” Madhi said. “I don’t think we will ever repeat the same conditions we encountered during the course of three initial waves in South Africa.”
As experts in public health monitor the situation in South Africa, they have advised caution when drawing too many conclusions for other countries. The population is younger for instance, and prior high rates of infection may have led to lesser severe infections in the country, CBS News reported.
This news comes as a number of regions in the U.S. continue to see an increase in hospitalizations and cases attributed to the Omicron variant. Surgeon General Vivek Muthy, MD, told CNN on Sunday that the Omicron variant is causing more hospitalizations.
New York City is seeing an increase in COVID-19 cases. New York City was the first location in the U.S. to be affected by the Omicron variant. However, more than 750,000 cases are still being reported every day across the nation.
“The issue is that the entire country is not moving at the same speed,” Murthy said. “The Omicron wave started later in other parts of the country, so we shouldn’t be expecting a nationwide peak in the coming days. The next few weeks will be tough.”
Scientists from the United States are studying other countries that have similar rates of vaccination and populations. The Omicron surge in the U.K. appears to be decreasing, with the number of infections dropping dramatically in recent days.
“We are almost there. It’s now the time to end at the most in the U.K.” Julian Hiscox PhD was the director of infection at the University of Liverpool. The BBC reported this to the BBC.
“I think life in 2022 will be almost back to before the pandemic,” he said. “Should there be a new or old variant, most of us will experience sniffles and a headache and then we’re perfectly fine,” he said.
CBS News: “South Africa is now over Omicron and their positive news may be a harbinger of hope for the U.S.”
CNN: “The Omicron surge hasn’t reached its peak in the US, and ‘the next few weeks will be difficult,’ US surgeon general says.”
BBC News: “Endemic Covid” Is the pandemic nearing its zenith?