Health workers at the Steve Biko Academic Hospital on January 19, 2021 in Pretoria, South Africa.
Gallo Pictures | Gallo Pictures | Getty Images
Within a few weeks, Omicron’s Covid-19 variant – which was first discovered in November in South Africa and Botswana – has seen a sharp surge worldwide, leading to millions of new cases and the reintroduction of coronavirus restrictions in many countries.
The US and Europe have introduced booster vaccinations as soon as possible, according to the research of the Covid vaccine manufacturers Pfizer–BioNTech and Modern that the Omicron variant undermines the effectiveness of the two standard doses of their Covid vaccinations, but that booster shots increase the protection against the variant significantly.
Still, cases have increased in both regions, with the US reporting over 1 million new daily Covid cases on Monday, and the UK and France are also among those reporting a staggering number of daily infections, in the most recent numbers over 200,000 per day. Hospital admissions are also increasing steadily in the affected countries, although admissions and deaths remain well below previous highs.
As well as more and more evidence Experts are cautiously optimistic that the Omicron wave turns out to be sharper than with previous variants, but could also be shorter.
For example, South Africa believes its Omicron wave has peaked, and London – where Omicron cases spiked in December before the variant really hit the rest of Europe – could see a plateau of cases, according to experts, which is hopeful that the Omicron wave could soon peak elsewhere.
South Africa’s government made a statement on December 30th which said the country’s health ministry reported a 29.7% decrease in the number of newly discovered cases for the week ended December 25 (89,781 cases) compared to the number of newly discovered cases the previous week (127,753 ).
“All indicators suggest that nationally the country may have passed the peak of the fourth wave,” the statement said, with cases in all provinces except the Western Cape and Eastern Cape, which show an increase of 14% % and 18% respectively decreased.
Nonetheless, there has been a decline in hospital admissions in all provinces except the Western Cape, the statement added, noting that admissions were generally lower for the Omicron variant.
“Although the Omicron variant is highly transferable, there were lower hospital admission rates than in the previous waves. This means that the country also has free capacity to accept patients for routine health services. The number of deaths increases slightly “in all provinces.”
Global experts have been keeping a close eye on South Africa’s Covid data as it was one of the first countries to discover the Omicron variant and alerted the World Health Organization, which on November 26th described the heavily mutated strain as a “variant of concern”.
Real-world studies from South Africa and Great Britain suggest that people infected with Omicron develop a milder disease compared to the previously predominant Delta variant. However, Omicron is far more transmissible, which means that a larger number of cases could put more pressure on health services.
When Omicron was first discovered by doctors in South Africa, They observed that their patients had milder illnesses that looked more like a cold than the fluwhose symptoms have been linked to previous strains of Covid. South African doctors also found that most of the patients hospitalized with Omicron were hospitalized for other reasons and did not need oxygen.
Other to learn published in International Journal of Infectious Diseases on Dec. 28 indicated that the Omicron wave of hospital admissions in Tshwane (a town in South Africa’s Gauteng province where Omicron cases rose in December) had peaked “within 4 weeks of its onset of 33 Days. “
Fareed Abdullah, director of AIDS and tuberculosis research at the South African Medical Research Council, compared the wave of omicron infections to a “flood” and described the rate of rise, peak and fall of the wave of omicrones as “jarring.”
Like South Africa, the UK was watched closely as it became the first European country to be hit hard by a surge in omicron infections in December before the variant spread to the US and mainland Europe.
The UK capital, London, saw a surge in omicron infections in December, but there are signs that cases are starting to stabilize, which in turn suggests that this wave of omicron will peak faster than the previous ones.
Epidemiologist Neil Ferguson, a professor in the School of Public Health at Imperial College London, said Tuesday he was “cautiously optimistic that infection rates in London are in that important 18- to 50-year-old age group that is fueling the Omicron epidemic , possibly plateau, “although he told the BBC radio show” Today “that” it’s too early to say if they’ll go under. “
“We may be seeing a different pattern of hospital admissions,” he noted, echoing other officials who warned UK hospitals are likely to be under further pressure in the coming weeks, and Ferguson noted that “we have high levels for a few weeks could see. “
Hospitalizations and deaths typically delay new infections by several weeks, but the UK’s widespread Covid vaccination program has helped keep hospital admissions and deaths far lower than in the early stages of the pandemic. Whether or not South Africa’s Omicron experience can be compared to the UK remains to be seen, given the differences in demographics, vaccination densities and population immunity.
Lawrence Young, a professor of molecular oncology at Warwick University, told CNBC on Tuesday that “it looks like cases in the 18-50 age bracket in London are plateauing” but are next Weeks will prove crucial to see how the Omicron Crisis plays out.
“The problem is now spreading to older age groups, which was likely fueled by the mixing during the holiday season and will lead to more severe outcomes and hospital admissions,” he noted, as well as “more infections in younger school-age children”. [that] will further increase the number of cases. “
“But given the widespread and rapid spread of omicrons along with the level of immunity in the population, there won’t be many more susceptible people to become infected, so the case numbers are expected to drop over the next few weeks, the same sharp drop as in South Africa due to different rates of infection in different parts of the UK affected by variable restriction measures, “he noted.
Danny Altmann, a professor of immunology at Imperial College London, told CNBC on Tuesday that South Africa’s omicron data and experience give cause for optimism, as does the fact that Europe’s “massive caseload” of omicron infections “is not proportional to one intensification “leads to hospital admissions and deaths regardless of the constraint that death takes time.”
Hospital admissions were the most important metric, according to Professor David Heymann, epidemiologist at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.
“This coronavirus, like other coronaviruses, will be an endemic virus in humans and will likely cause a cold. That’s because immunity is increasing in the population and antibody levels in the UK are already over 90% by the time this occurs. ”The virus is modified – it won’t stop re-infecting or re-infecting people who have been vaccinated – but it will prevents it from causing serious illness, so it is extremely important to monitor hospital admissions, ”he told CNBC’s Squawk Box Europe on Wednesday. .