South Africa’s Omicron Infections Are Already Plummeting Just 4 Weeks Later

South Africa’s omicron wave appears to already be subsiding just four weeks after the country’s infections massively spiked, The Washington Post reports.

Salim Abdool Karim, the country’s top infection disease specialist, said Wednesday that South Africa already appears to have passed its peak. He said he expects “every other country, or almost every other, to follow the same trajectory.”

“If previous variants caused waves shaped like Kilimanjaro, omicron’s is more like we were scaling the North Face of Everest,” Karim said, referring to the quick massive spike.

“Now we’re going down, right back down, the South Face — and that is the way we think it may work with a variant like omicron, and perhaps even more broadly what we’ll see with subsequent variants at this stage of the pandemic,” he said.

Study suggests omicron less severe:

Amid numerous reports that omicron infections have not had the same effect on hospital capacity as previous variants, a study by South Africa’s National Institute for Communicable Diseases on Wednesday reported that the omicron variant is 80% less likely to result in hospitalization than the delta variant.

Researchers found that even among hospitalized patients the risk of severe illness was about 30% lower.

Karim cautioned that some of the data may be affected by the fact that more than 70% of South Africans were previously infected by other variants.

“In South Africa, variants, even highly mutated ones, will run out of people pretty quickly,” he said. “Pretty much by the end of last week it was running out of steam; there just aren’t enough people left to infect.”

How far behind are other countries?

Karim said he expects to see similar steep declines in other countries.

“By the time we knew about it, it was fully established,” Karim said. “Based on the proportion of sequences that come back as omicron, I’d say we are probably between two and three weeks ahead of the U.S., about two ahead of Norway and Denmark, and substantially ahead of, probably up to four weeks, the U.K. and the rest of Europe. But what we’re seeing here in South Africa at least tentatively should be good news for everyone.”


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