South Africa delivered some positive news on the omicron coronavirus variant on Friday, reporting a much lower rate of hospital admissions and signs that the wave of infections may be peaking.
Only 1.7% of identified Covid-19 cases were admitted to hospital in the second week of infections in the fourth wave, compared with 19% in the same week of the third delta-driven wave, South African Health Minister Joe Phaahla said at a press conference.
Health officials presented evidence that the strain may be milder, and that infections may already be peaking in the country’s most populous province, Gauteng.
Currently there are about 7,600 people with Covid-19 in South African hospitals, about 40% of the peak in the second and third waves. Excess deaths, a measure of the number of deaths against a historical average, are just below 2,000 a week, an eighth of their previous peak.
“We are really seeing very small increases in the number of deaths,” said Michelle Groome, head of health surveillance for the country’s National Institute for Communicable Diseases.