A new variant is typically seen as anything but good news.
However, a new study in South Africa has claimed that the Omicron variant is good news. It could even signal the end of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Omicron May Bring the End of the Epidemic Phase of COVID-19
The Steve Biko Academic Hospital Complex analysed the records of 466 patients from the current wave and 3,976 from previous waves of infection. The hospital is located in the South African city where the first outbreak of Omicron was recorded.
The study showed that Omicron infections transmitted faster than any other prior variant. However, it caused much milder illness than previous strains did.
We are thus likely to see less relation between case and death rates, with a high number of cases but a very low number of deaths.
South Africa’s Recent Records Show Encouraging Signs of the Pandemic Slowing Down
The number of hospitalisations in South Africa has peaked at only half of the records from previous variants’ waves. The number stands at 108 compared to 213.
The rate of admissions declined within 33 days even though it increased quickly at first. Additionally, only about one-third of COVID-19 patients were admitted for the virus. The other two-third of COVID-19 patients were admitted for other reasons.
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Only 4.5% of COVID-19 patients died during hospitalisation in the current Omicron wave, as opposed to an average of 21% in earlier variants.
The number of deaths compared with a historical average, called the weekly excess deaths, thus peaked at a significantly lower number. It is now at less than a fifth of their highest record during COVID-19.
Hospital stays were also shorter, averaging four days compared to nine days in previous strains. The average age of patients admitted also decreased from 50 to 39, and only 1% of patients required intensive care.
South Africa Closely Watched to Act as a Predictor for Global Omicron Cases
As the first country to experience a major Omicron outbreak, researchers are all watching South Africa closely to see how the infections may turn out internationally.
The data from this latest study reflects a high level of asymptomatic disease with Omicron. It reaffirms researchers’ hopes that Omicron’s high transmissibility is mitigated by its milder disease and a lower number of deaths.
However, the relatively young ages of South Africans and their COVID-19 patients might make the variant seem less severe than it actually is.
Nevertheless, if the international community has a similar experience with Omicron, the pandemic might move to become endemic. This means that when more people are exposed to the virus, they gain immunity and thus experience less serious disease.
This will make COVID-19 less dangerous for everyone, and be on par with the common flu.
Of course, this is assuming that the virus doesn’t further mutate into another strain that could cause more severe disease. And that any mutation in the future won’t easily escape the antibodies cultivated from vaccinations and previous infections.
In fact, this prediction has been made by other experts, too. You can watch this to understand more:
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