Hospitalizations associated with the Omicron variant less severe, says SAMRC

Preliminary data released by scientists suggest Omicron variant might not be that severe.

Since the Omicron variant emerged and sent shockwaves across the globe towards the end of November, scientists have been scrambling to determine whether the variant is more severe than other variants or not. However, preliminary data from the South African Medical Research Council for the past two weeks since the variant was detected has helped shed some light on the matter. The findings from data collected in Tshwane, where the outbreak began show patients hospitalised due to the virus presented with less severe symptoms. The findings were echoed by Anthony Fauci, US President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser as the administration re-evaluates travel bans imposed on Southern African countries. “Thus far, it doesn’t look like there’s a great degree of severity to it,” said Fauci.

The World Health Organization (WHO) also reported encouraging Omicron-related data. A recent report showed that while the variant had been detected in 38 countries by then, no deaths associated with Omicron were yet to be reported. As cases soar across the country, a change in the pattern of hospitalizations has also been noted. “The age profile of patients in the hospital, over the last two weeks, is a different age profile. 80 percent of the patients in the COVID wards are below the age of 50,” said Dr Fareed Abdullah, from the SAMRC. "Secondly, the length of stay of these patients in the hospital is lower and thirdly, and the most important thing that we have seen is that the majority of patients are not dependent on oxygen supplementation," added Adbullah.