While the Omicron wave has led to a surge in Covid-19 infections, health minister Joe Phaahla said in a Friday briefing that there were signs that it was possibly less severe than previous strains.
“We indeed saw steep rises of infections with high positivity rates between 25-30% and above on a daily basis [between December 17 2021 and January 14].
“Fortunately, the pattern of highly reduced severity was borne out by the low hospitalisation rates including less need for oxygen therapy and less high care and ICU utilisation continued,” said Phaahla.
Fatality rates are also on the decline, although Phaahla warned against becoming complacent.
“As Omicron has been spreading to various parts of the world, the pattern seems to be the same with less severity compared to previous variants with the variant having been identified in 149 countries as of January 6 compared to 76 on December 17 2021.
“Notwithstanding the reduced severity overall, the Omicron variant is still deadly with people of advanced age, those with comorbidities and the unvaccinated.”
Phaahla urged residents to get their vaccine as soon as possible, saying that the fourth wave was a clear sign of the vaccines’ effectiveness.
As of January 14, the Eastern Cape was fourth place in national vaccination rates with 50% of the population having received at least one jab. The Free State was first, at 54.1%, followed by the Western Cape and Limpopo at 53.6% and 52.2% respectively.
Nationally, 40% of the adult population has been fully vaccinated.
“Our main priority remains the full vaccination of at least 70% of the adult population,” said Phaahla.
“I wish to reiterate that the protection of vaccines against severe illnesses is uncontested as we can see now with the fourth wave as we saw with the protection of health workers and educators in the third wave.”