Omicron could ‘usher in end of Covid epidemic’ given lower death rate, says new study


Researchers analysed data they collected from 466 patients admitted to the Steve Biko Academic Hospital complex from November 14 before comparing it to 3,976 Covid patients admitted before that date. The research took place in the same region where local scientists in the Gauteng province first identified the variant.

The first conclusions of the study that assed Omicron’s lethality showed that only 4.5 percent of the patients admitted to the hospital during the Omicron wave died.

The figures are nearly five times lower than the death rate during previous waves in the same hospital, reaching 21.3 percent of all Covid patients.

According to the researchers from the University of Pretoria and the National Institute for Communicable Diseases in South Africa, these figures could predict a decoupling of Covid cases and death rates.

They wrote in the International Journal of Infectious Diseases: “There was decreased severity of disease in the Omicron-driven fourth wave in the city of Tshwane.

“There are clear signs that case and admission rates in South Africa may decline further over the next few weeks.

“If this pattern continues and is repeated globally, we are likely to see a complete decoupling of case and death rates, suggesting that Omicron may be a harbinger of the end of the epidemic phase of the Covid pandemic, ushering in its endemic phase.”

Hospitalisations were also shorter for the Omicron patients as they only spent four days in hospital on average compared to 8.8 days before.

The number needing intensive care was also far lower, at 1 percent rather than 3 percent.

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Sir John Bell, regius professor of medicine at Oxford University and the government’s life sciences adviser, also said that the disease “appears to be less severe and many people spend a relatively short time in hospital.”

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “The horrific scenes that we saw a year ago of intensive care units being full, lots of people dying prematurely, that is now history, in my view, and I think we should be reassured that that’s likely to continue.”

He added that Omicron is “not the same disease we were seeing a year ago.”


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