In South Africa the Omicron Variant Has Been Less Dangerous So Far Than Other Variants of the Virus

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Voice of America news reported 4 days ago that South Africa has passed the peak of the latest COVID-19 wave, driven by Omicron.

The Voice of America article reports:

Dr. Michelle Groome is with the National Institute for Communicable Diseases.

“All indications are that we’ve seen the end of the — that we’ve surpassed the peak of infections in Gauteng. This is encouraging and quite optimistic in terms of the decreasing trends in case numbers. But I think we really do need to be cognizant that … people are now traveling, and there may be changes in terms of the number of people that may be testing and so some of the lower numbers may be due to the holiday season,” she said.

Groome says omicron is the dominant variant driving the wave, accounting for 95% of cases this month.

While it has spread more rapidly than previous variants, it isn’t causing the same level of severe illness.

Dr. Waasila Jassat is a public health specialist at the National Institute for Communicable Diseases.

“In terms of severity, there’s a lower percentage of hospital admissions, a low percentage of cases have been admitted, and a lower percentage of admissions who have died. And there are signals towards lower severity amongst those admitted and shorter lengths of stay,” she said.

It’s unclear if the lower level of hospitalizations is because omicron is less severe than other variants or that the public is more resilient to the virus.

Groome says as many as 70% of South Africans have some level of immunity to the coronavirus, either through vaccination or previous infection.

Scientists at the Africa Health Research Institute in Durban, South Africa, work on the omicron variant of the COVID-19 virus, Dec. 15, 2021.


Less than half of South African adults have been vaccinated despite ongoing government efforts urging people to get the shot.

Experts say South Africa’s experience with omicron isn’t necessarily a blueprint for other countries that have seen comparatively higher vaccination rates and lower levels natural exposure.