Free State Hospital fire

A stock photo of empty hospital beds – Image source: Flickr

Panic over? New SA study shows Omicron infections ’70-80% less severe’

Eat, drink, and be merry over Christmas – because this new research on Omicron and its severity is everything we’ve been hoping to see…

Free State Hospital fire

A stock photo of empty hospital beds – Image source: Flickr

This is, arguably, the best gift any of us could have received before Christmas: Data collected by a cohort of top scientists in South Africa has identified key differences between infections caused by the Omicron and Delta variants of COVID-19 – and it’s our utmost pleasure to bring you some good news.

Is Omicron milder than others? It would appear so…

The experts behind the research, including Dr. Michelle Groome and Dr. Waasila Jassat, are backed up by the NICD. They will be holding a press conference later today to discuss these findings.

South Africa has already passed the peak of its fourth wave, which was fuelled by a sharp burst of Omicron infections. Consisting of 32 mutations, the new strain put us all on red alert – and, with Mzansi being one of the first countries to encounter B.1.1.529, the world has watched developments here with a keen interest.

Chances of being hospitalised with Omicron ‘reduced dramatically’

However, after all of that initial panic and stress, the picture is becoming clearer, and more comprehensive. The pre-print paper reveals that your chances of being hospitalised with an Omicron infection LOWER by around 80%.

A similar rate was also discovered for the severity of disease, when Omicron was measured up to Delta. Without doubt, this new variant seems to be much more favourable to us than the one it has replaced – and we’d wager there are a few scientists punching the air this morning.

What can we put this down to?

Prior immunity is likely shaping this transition to ‘milder infections’, too. A significant majority of South Africans have, through a previous infection or via taking the vaccine, built up a set of antibodies that are strong enough to reduce the impact Omicron can have on them. This variant, therefore, may change our pandemic trajectory for the better.

“We found that Omicron (SGTF) infections had an 80% lower odds of being admitted to hospital. When compared to Delta infections, SGTF infections were associated with a 70% lower odds of severe disease, too.”

“In addition, we found that early Omicron wave infections had a significantly lower mean PCR Ct-value compared to
early Delta wave infections, which may reflect higher viral loads in Omicron infected individuals.”

NICD, NHLS et al pre-print paper on Omicron vs Delta