Data | What does initial data about the Omicron variant show?

The number of hospitalisations in 20 days since the Omicron variant was discovered was relatively lower than the pace observed during the Delta wave in Gauteng in South Africa

December 18, 2021 07:43 pm | Updated 07:47 pm IST

People with masks walking at a shopping mall,= in Johannesburg, South Africa, on November 26, 2021. Advisers to the World Health Organization are holding a special session on Friday to flesh out information about a worrying new variant of the coronavirus that has emerged in South Africa, though its impact on COVID-19 vaccines may not be known for weeks.

People with masks walking at a shopping mall,= in Johannesburg, South Africa, on November 26, 2021. Advisers to the World Health Organization are holding a special session on Friday to flesh out information about a worrying new variant of the coronavirus that has emerged in South Africa, though its impact on COVID-19 vaccines may not be known for weeks.

While the Delta variant of COVID-19 is still the dominant strain globally, the recently discovered Omicron variant threatens to pose more significant problems. A comparison of infection rates in South Africa's Gauteng province , considered the epicentre of the new strain, shows that the Omicron variant spreads faster than the Delta and Beta variants. However, initial data from the province also indicate that the Omicron variant does not cause more severe disease. The number of hospital admissions and patients in the ICU with this variant of COVID-19 was fewer compared to that of the Delta wave. However, these are still early days.

Leading variant

The graph shows the % share of various variants in the Gauteng province of South Africa among the samples sequenced. Over 96% of all samples sequenced as of Friday, December 10 were of the Omicron variant. Between October 2020 and April 2021, Beta was the dominant variant, and between July 2021 and November 2021, Delta was the dominant one. The number of infections in the Gauteng province jumped from 150 to 11,500 in just over 20 days after the Omicron variant was discovered.

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Higher case rate

The graph shows the number of daily COVID-19 cases recorded during the Omicron wave (November 16 to December 6 - 21 days), Delta wave (May 1, 2021 to November 14, 2021 - 199 days), and the Beta wave (Since November 15 - 21 days). The first day a variant became dominant is considered day 1 of that version.

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Fewer hospitalisations

The graph shows the number of daily COVID-19-related hospitalisations recorded during the three waves. The number of hospitalisations in 20 days since the Omicron variant was discovered has just crossed the 1,500 mark which is relatively lower than the pace observed during the Delta wave.

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Fewer ICU admissions

The graph shows the number of daily COVID-19-related hospitalisations recorded during the three waves. 20 days since the Omicron variant was discovered, the number of ICU admissions has gone up from 50 to around 150, much fewer than the initial days of the delta wave.