A new study out of South Africa found that patients hospitalized with COVID-19 during the omicron wave suffered fewer severe COVID-19 symptoms and were less likely to die.
- The researchers compared South Africa’s COVID-19 waves in summer 2020, winter 2020 and spring 2021 to assess how the omicron variant compared.
Per USA Today, here’s how the numbers break down:
- Seventy-four percent of hospitalized patients needed oxygen therapy during the delta variant’s wave. Only 17.6% needed it during the omicron wave.
- The median days for staying at a hospital before omicron was eight days. Now, that number is three days.
- The death rate dropped from 29.1% with delta to 2.7% with omicron.
These numbers come as we’ve seen what appears to be the end of the omicron wave in South Africa. According to Reuters, South Africa health officials said they believed the omicron variant’s surge had passed its peak, leading the South Africa government to raise its curfew.
Still, researchers haven’t been relying on South Africa data for the omicron variant since the South Africa population had a high level of immunity from previous surges.
Dr. Abdi Mahamud, the WHO’s incident manager for COVID-19, said it’s too early to interpret all of South Africa’s data — especially in assessing how it will affect different populations.
- “We all want this disease to be milder, but the population it affected so far is the younger. How it behaves in the elderly population, the vulnerable — we don’t know yet,” Mahamud said, per CNBC.
- “It’s too early to determine,” Mahamud said. “We’re optimistic, but I think we shouldn’t over-interpret the data coming from South Africa.”