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Sinking in case suggests South Africa’s omicron peak may have passed

JOHANNESBURG (AP) – The remarkable drop in new COVID-19 cases in South Africa in recent days may signal that the country’s dramatic omicron-driven rise has passed its peak, experts say. medical said.

Daily virus case counts are notoriously unreliable, as they can be affected by uneven testing, delayed reporting, and other fluctuations. But they are making a tantalizing suggestion – still inconclusive – that omicron infections can go into rapid remission after a violent spike.

South Africa has been at the forefront of the omicron wave, and the world is watching for any signs of how it might play out to try to understand what might be in store.

After hitting a high of nearly 27,000 new cases nationwide on Thursday, the number dropped to about 15,424 cases on Tuesday. In Gauteng province – which is South Africa’s most populous with 16 million people, including the largest city, Johannesburg and the capital, Pretoria – the decline started earlier and continues.

Marta Nunes, a senior researcher with Vaccines and the Department of Infectious Diseases at the University of the Witwatersrand, told The Associated Press.

“It was a short wave…and the good news is it was not so severe in terms of hospitalizations and deaths,” she said. “It is not surprising in epidemiology that a very strong increase, like what we saw in November, is followed by a sharp decrease.”

The province of Gauteng saw its numbers start to increase sharply in mid-November. Scientists conducting gene sequencing quickly identified the newly released highly mutated omicron variant to the world. on 11/25.

Capable of delivering significantly faster transmissions, omicrons quickly gained dominance in South Africa. According to tests, an estimated 90% of COVID-19 cases in Gauteng province since mid-November are omicrons.

And the world seems to be quickly following suit, with omicron having overtaken the delta variant as the predominant coronavirus strain in several countries. In the US, omicrons make up 73% This variant causes about 90% or more of new infections in the New York area, the Southeast, the industrial Midwest and the Pacific Northwest, health officials said last week.

Confirmed UK coronavirus cases jumped 60% in a week as omicrons crossed delta becoming the dominant variant there. Worldwide, this variant has been detected in at least 89 countries, according to the World Health Organization.

In South Africa, experts fear that large numbers of new infections will overwhelm the country’s hospitals, although omicrons appear to cause milder illness, with significantly fewer hospitalizations, The patient required oxygen and died.

But then the cases in Gauteng started to decrease. After hitting 16,000 new infections on December 12, the province’s number has steadily declined, to just over 3,300 as of Tuesday.

“It’s very important. It’s very important,” said Dr Fareed Abdullah of the drop.

Abdullah, who works on the COVID-19 ward at Steve Biko Academic Hospital in Pretoria, said: “The rapid rise in new cases has been followed by a rapid decline and it looks like we are seeing the beginnings of a start. of the attenuation of this wave.

In another sign that the rise in omicrons in South Africa may be fading, a study of healthcare professionals who tested positive for COVID-19 at Chris Hani Baragwanath hospital in Soweto suggests a rapid increase and then a rapid decrease in the number of cases.

“Two weeks ago we were seeing more than 20 new cases per day and now it is about five or six cases per day,” Nunes said.

Still, she said, it’s still early days and there are a number of factors that need to be watched closely.

South Africa’s positivity rate remains high at 29%, up from just 2% in early November, indicating that the virus is still circulating in the population at a relatively high level, she said.

And the country’s public holiday is underway, as many businesses close for a month and people travel home to visit family, often in rural areas. This could accelerate the spread of omicrons across South Africa and neighboring countries, experts say.

Professor Veronica Uekermann, COVID-19 response team leader at Steve Biko Academic Hospital said: “In terms of the daily doublings that we saw just over a week ago in huge numbers, that’s it. seems to have stabilized.

“But it’s too early to say we’re past our peak. There are too many external factors, including holiday movement and general behavior during this time,” she said, noting that last year infections spiked after the holiday season.

It’s summer in South Africa and many gatherings are outdoors, which could make the difference between the omicron-driven wave here and the rise in Europe and North America, where people tend to indoor gathering direction.

Another unknown factor is the amount of omicrons that have spread among South Africans without causing disease.

Some health officials in New York have suggested that because South Africa appears to have experienced a rapid and mild wave of omicrons, this variant may behave similarly there and elsewhere in the United States. But Nunes cautions against jumping to those conclusions.

“Every scene, every country is different. Different populations. The demographics of the population, the immunity is different in different countries,” she said. For example, the population of South Africa, with an average age of 27, is younger than many Western countries.

Uekermann emphasized that most of the patients being treated for COVID-19 at the hospital have not been vaccinated. About 40% of South African adults have received two doses.

“All of my patients in the ICU are unvaccinated,” says Uekermann. “So our vaccinated people are doing better in this wave, for sure. We have received a number of patients with severe COVID-19 illness, and these are unvaccinated patients.”

https://kfor.com/news/dip-in-cases-hints-south-africas-omicron-peak-may-have-passed/ Sinking in case suggests South Africa’s omicron peak may have passed

JACLYN DIAZ

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