Omicron variant: South Africa says peak has passed, without significant rise in death toll

South Africa, where the new variant of SARS-CoV-2 was detected last month, announced Thursday, November 30, that it had passed the peak of the Omicron wave without a significant increase in the number of deaths. “All the indicators suggest that the country has probably passed the peak of the fourth wave” of the Covid-19 epidemic, the presidency said in a statement, announcing the lifting of certain health restrictions and in particular the night curfew. “A marginal increase in the number of deaths has been observed in all provinces”, she continued.

New contaminations fell by nearly 30% last week (over 89,000), compared to the previous week (over 127,000). And hospital admissions fell in eight out of nine provinces: “Although the Omicron variant is highly transmissible, hospitalization rates have been lower than in previous waves”, stressed the presidency.

Omicron, which has a high number of mutations raising fears of resistance to Covid-19 vaccines, was first identified in Botswana and South Africa at the end of November. It quickly became dominant in South Africa, causing the number of infections to rise exponentially to more than 26,000 daily cases in mid-December, according to official statistics.

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Lifting of the curfew

The variant is currently present in around 100 countries, according to the World Health Organization. Extremely contagious, it affects people who have been vaccinated as well as those who have already been infected with the coronavirus.

The African country officially the most affected, South Africa has more than 3.4 million cases and 91,000 deaths. Less than 13,000 cases have been detected in the past twenty-four hours.

“The rate at which the fourth wave from Omicron rose, peaked and then declined was astounding. A peak in four weeks and a precipitous decline in two weeks ”, Fareed Abdullah of the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC) posted on Twitter.

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As many countries affected by Omicron announce tightening of health restrictions, the South African government has decided to lift the nighttime curfew so far in effect from midnight to 4 a.m. Establishments licensed for the sale of alcohol after 11 p.m. may resume normal operation. Wearing a mask, however, remains compulsory in public spaces and gatherings are still limited: 1,000 people maximum indoors, 2,000 outdoors.

The demands for a lifting of the curfew had multiplied in recent days, in anticipation of New Year’s Eve, with a petition from the owners of restaurants and bars. “The risk of increased infections remains high given the high transmissibility of the Omicron variant”, however warned the presidency, calling for vaccination.

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The World with AFP

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Omicron variant: South Africa says peak has passed, without significant rise in death toll