Omicron causes only a quarter of the deaths of patients as previous Covid waves, the first major study into mortality data suggests.
Researchers at the University of Pretoria and the National Institute of Communicable Diseases in South Africa followed patients admitted to a large hospital in City of Tshwane. The city is in Gauteng Province, the original epicentre of the omicron outbreak.
The researchers found that 4.5 per cent died during the omicron wave, compared with 21.3 per cent before the variant took hold.
They said that, if the findings were reproduced globally, there would be a “complete decoupling of case and death rates” that would end the epidemic and usher in an endemic phase.
Recent figures suggest the case fatality rate in Britain has fallen to 0.12 (one in 833) from highs of 3.3 (one in 30) last winter since omicron emerged, although death data will be lagged by several weeks.
The new study also showed that those admitted to hospital in the omicron wave were discharged after an average of four days – compared with 8.8 days for previous waves – and the peak number of patients in hospital was less than half that of the delta wave.