South African scientists believe Omicron is lighter than Delta

South African scientists believe Omicron is lighter than Delta

The Omicron Covid-19 variant was first identified in South Africa. Dr. Unben Pillay in South Africa admits to treating dozens of sick patients every day, but he doesn't have to send anyone to hospital.

Ummatimes - That's one of the reasons why he, along with doctors and other medical experts, suspect that the Omicron version actually causes a milder Covid-19 than the Delta, even though this variant spreads more quickly. “They are able to manage the disease at home. Most have recovered within a 10 to 14 day isolation period," Pillay said of his patients.

"This includes older patients and those with health problems that can make them more susceptible to becoming seriously ill from coronavirus infection," he said.

In the two weeks since Omicron was first reported in South Africa, other doctors have shared similar stories. All cautious that it will take weeks to gather enough data to be certain, their observations and preliminary evidence offer some clues.

According to South Africa's National Institute for Infectious Diseases, only about 30 percent of those hospitalized with Covid-19 in recent weeks have become seriously ill. That number is less than half the level it was during the first weeks of the previous wave of the pandemic.

Then, the average hospital stay for Covid-19 this time was faster, around 2.8 days compared to eight days. Only three percent of patients hospitalized recently with Covid-19 have died, compared to about 20 percent in the country's previous outbreak.

"Today, almost everything is pointing towards a milder disease," said Willem Hanekom, director of the African Institute of Health Research.

"It's still early days, and we need to get final data. Often hospitalizations and deaths follow later, and we're only two weeks into this wave," he explained.

Meanwhile, scientists around the world are watching case numbers and hospitalization rates, all the while testing to see how well current vaccines and treatments hold up. While Delta is still the dominant strain of the coronavirus worldwide, cases of Omicron are popping up in dozens of countries, with South Africa at its epicenter.

According to Health Minister Joe Phaahla, South Africa confirmed 22,400 new cases on Thursday and 19,000 on Friday, up from around 200 a day a few weeks ago. The new spike has infected 90,000 people in the past month.