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Covid cases in South Africa drop by 38% in a week as Omicron wave appears to burn itself out


Covid cases in South Africa drop by 38 per cent in a week as death figures boost evidence that Omicron variant is less severe than Delta

  • Country hit its peak in seven days to Dec 17, with average 23,437 cases recorded 
  • But by Monday, the number had plummeted by 38% to 14,390 coronavirus cases 
  • Death figures reflect UK evidence that Omicron is less severe than Delta variant
  • Daily death toll was average of 578 at start of year, and is now around 60 deaths 


Cases of Covid in South Africa are continuing to fall, as the wave caused by Omicron appears to burn itself out.

The country, which was one of the first in the world to fall victim to Omicron, hit its peak in the seven days to December 17, when an average of 23,437 cases were recorded.

But by Monday, the number had plummeted by 38 per cent to 14,390 cases.

The figures are the average across seven days, making them more reliable than fluctuating day-to-day statistics, although fewer people get tested around Christmas and people in South Africa tend to leave large cities for rural areas, where they are less likely to get tested.

A healthcare worker administers the Pfizer vaccine to a man amid the spread of the Omicron coronavirus variant in Johannesburg, South Africa, on December 9

A healthcare worker administers the Pfizer vaccine to a man amid the spread of the Omicron coronavirus variant in Johannesburg, South Africa, on December 9

Scientists at the Africa Health Research Institute in Durban, South Africa, work on the Omicron variant of coronavirus on December 15

Scientists at the Africa Health Research Institute in Durban, South Africa, work on the Omicron variant of coronavirus on December 15

However the figures for deaths reflect the evidence from the UK that Omicron is significantly less severe than the previous Delta variant.

At the very start of the year, in South Africa, deaths hit their peak at an average of 578 a day in the seven days to January 4.

The daily toll now is around 60 deaths, bearing out suggestions that patients in South Africa have milder symptoms and are less likely to end up in hospital.

Jamie Jenkins, former head of health analysis at the Office for National Statistics, said: ‘This data confirms what the scientists in South Africa have been saying for a few weeks, that this is a variant which is more transmissible, making people more likely to catch it, but that the symptoms and the impact of it are less severe.

Passengers board buses traveling to Zimbabwe amid the spread of the Omicron variant in Johannesburg, South Africa, on December 14

Passengers board buses traveling to Zimbabwe amid the spread of the Omicron variant in Johannesburg, South Africa, on December 14

Travellers queue at OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg on November 27, after several countries banned flights from South Africa following the discovery of Omicron

Travellers queue at OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg on November 27, after several countries banned flights from South Africa following the discovery of Omicron

‘We are seeing far fewer deaths than we have in the past.’

Last week new data from South Africa showed nine in 10 deaths from Omicron were in unvaccinated patients.

Among the country’s 309 deaths from the variant, just 40 were found to be in people given two vaccine doses, illustrating the crucial protection provided by being jabbed.

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