South Africa has passed the peak of the Omicron outbreak, chief scientist says

The country “has passed the peak of the Omicron wave now, driven by a significant downturn in the densely populated province and epicenter: Gauteng,” Ridwaan Suliman, senior fellow at the South African Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), told CNN. Wednesday.

This was echoed by one of the country’s leading scientists, Michelle Groom of the National Institute of Infectious Diseases (NICD), who said earlier Wednesday at a media briefing that all signs show that “we have passed the peak of infections in Gauteng.”

The number of new cases of Covid-19 detected in South Africa has dropped by 20.8% as of December 18, according to the NICD epidemiological report released on Wednesday.

Most of the country’s other provinces have also passed their peak, Suliman said.

NICD data shows a 23% drop in reported cases in the Northwest Province over the past week (now 40.3 cases per 100,000 people).

Limpopo Province has seen a 14% drop in reported cases over the past week, while Mpumalanga Province has seen a 6% drop in reported cases, according to the NICD.

The news comes as the Omicron variant continues to take over many countries around the world, including the United States, where the variant has been found in every state. Meanwhile, countries throughout Europe reintroducing Covid restrictions to combat this latest wave caused by the new variant.

Dr. Angelique Coetzee, National Chair of the South African Medical Association and one of the first doctors to treat patients with Omicron, told CNN’s New Day program on Monday that South Africa was “at the limit”, stressing that the numbers in Gauteng province were “much lower”. “. “

Suliman described the country’s fourth wave as a “steeper wave” that was “significantly shorter” than previous ones, stating on Twitter that it took “about half as many days as previous waves in South Africa” ​​to peak.

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Although the positive test result remains “still high at 29.8%,” the fact that this figure is declining confirms that “the decline in infections is real, not an artifact of testing,” Suliman said.

And while there may be a “slight increase in mortality,” that figure would be “substantially lower” than the Delta variant, South African vaccinologist Shabir Mahdi told CNN on Wednesday.

According to Suliman, hospitalizations and deaths from this wave were “significantly lower compared to previous waves.”

South African scientists were the first to identify the Omicron variant last month, helping to raise alarm for the rest of the world.

Correction: This story incorrectly states when South African scientists first identified Omicron. It has been updated.