Thapelo Lekabe
Digital Journalist
2 minute read
22 Dec 2021
3:56 pm

NICD confirms Omicron infections are less severe than Delta variant

Thapelo Lekabe

The NICD said the Omicron variant had far fewer patients presenting with severe illness, with 87% of fatalities being unvaccinated.

Picture: iStock

The National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) says early data suggests that the threat of severe illness and hospitalisation in people infected with the Omicron variant is much lower compared to those infected with the Delta variant.

The NICD on Wednesday briefed the media on the latest Covid-19 developments as the country battles the fourth wave of Covid-19 infections, which is driven by the Omicron variant.

Since Omicron was first detected in South Africa last month, the NICD has been monitoring developments around the variant that is believed to be more transmissible than the Delta variant.

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Professor Cheryl Cohen from the NICD said they compared the severity of infections from Omicron to the Delta variant and made some positive findings.

“Early data suggests that Omicron infections are less severe than Delta infections in South Africa. The reduced severity could be in part as the result of high population immunity (herd immunity) due to previous infection and/or vaccination.

“It could also reflect that the virus itself is less likely to cause severe illness,” Cohen said.

The NICD’s Michelle Groome said the Omicron variant had surpassed the Delta variant in all of South Africa’s nine provinces.

Gauteng surpasses peak of fourth wave

She said Gauteng had surpassed the peak of the fourth wave in Covid-19 infections.

“If we look over time, we can see that Gauteng has started decreasing in terms of positivity rates and really all indications are that we have surpassed the peak of infections in Gauteng.

“We’ve seen a stabilisation in Mpumalanga and Limpopo and also a decrease in the North West,” Groome said.

During the onset of the resurgence in Covid cases, a rapid increase in infections was specifically recorded initially in Gauteng from mid-November and later spread to other provinces.

Deaths among the unvaccinated

The NICD data also concluded that more deaths were being recorded among unvaccinated Covid patients.

The institute’s Dr Waasila Jassat explained: “For those that we had data available, which is 309 patients, 40 or 13% were fully vaccinated and 269 or 87% were unvaccinated or not fully vaccinated.

“So, the majority of the deaths that we had data for, that had occurred in South Africa, were among people who are unvaccinated.”

The NICD’s acting executive director Professor Adrian Puren encouraged South Africans this festive season to continue to adhere to non-pharmaceutical Interventions such as wearing a mask, maintaining a safe physical distance, washing hands regularly, ensuring good ventilation and to vaccinate to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

“We still have to ensure that some of these non-pharmaceutical Interventions are still present and are implemented.

“The virus is continuously evolving and not stopping but we can stop transmission and let’s try as best as possible to control those transmissions,” Puren said.

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