South Africa: Omicron more contagious but a less serious form of Covid-19 according to the Netcare hospital group

A healthcare worker performs a Covid-19 PCR test at the Lancet laboratory in Johannesburg, November 30, 2021. AFP - EMMANUEL CROSET

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In South Africa, the omnipresence of the Omicron variant makes it possible to observe its behavior on infected people.

Netcare, one of the largest private health groups in the country, with around 50 hospitals, released a statement to share its initial findings, with a three-week decline.

The hospital group delivers encouraging information.


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With our correspondent in Johannesburg


Romain Chanson

Almost two weeks ago, on November 25, South Africa revealed the discovery of a new variant of Covid-19 quickly baptized Omicron.

A mutant identified thanks to the work of South African researchers, but whose origin remains unknown.

Today, Omicron dominates new infections in South Africa.

Responsible for an exponential increase in new cases, its speed of propagation is unprecedented.

But it would be a " 

much less serious form of Covid-19


At least this is the main lesson learned by Dr. Richard Friedland, director of the private hospital group Netcare, on site.

After three weeks of observation, he explains that the patients he met have "


milder" symptoms 


Situation under control in the group's hospitals

Dr Friedland is based here on 800 patients admitted to hospital since November 15, as well as more than 50,000 patients auscultated in the group's clinics.

And its point of comparison is the three previous epidemic waves.

Almost all of the patients affected by these observations over the past few weeks have presented with mild flu-like symptoms: stuffy or runny nose, headache, sore throat.

Symptoms that do not require hospitalization. 

The situation is also under control in the group's hospitals.

Among those admitted, only 10% need oxygen against 100% during the first three waves.

These remarks corroborate other observations made by general practitioners or South African hospital groups.

But yesterday as today, doctors stress on the other hand that these trends, if they are reassuring, must be refined and explained, in the coming days.

Questions about current vaccines

The number one of the World Health Organization seized this Wednesday of data observed on Omicron, declaring in turn that this variant could cause symptoms less severe than the Delta variant, for example.

On the other hand, " 

preliminary data from South Africa suggests a risk of reinfection

 " of people cured of the disease or vaccinated " 


 " with these new mutations specific to Omicron, explained Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

But “ 

more data is needed to draw

more definitive


” he said, on all these different points.

It is too early to be sure,

 " he pleads, while Pfizer and BioNTech ensure that their vaccine remains effective.

Agence France-Presse nevertheless specifies that "the 

first results, very partial, of a study moderate this displayed optimism


According to the Africa Health Research Institute (AHRI), specifies AFP, this variant would escape " 

in part from the immunity conferred

 " by Pfizer.

Anyway, the two laboratories allied in this crisis intend to " 

continue the development of a specific vaccine

 " against Omicron, counting on availability " 

by March in case an adaptation is necessary

 ", according to their latest statements.


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  • South Africa

  • Coronavirus

  • WHO