South Africa’s battle with the omicron variant of Covid-19 might be reaching a close.
It’s believed the variant, now present in more than 110 countries across the globe, originated in South Africa but the nation’s doctors are confident the surge in cases is over.
Marta Nunes, a senior researcher at the vaccines and infectious diseases analytics department of the University of Witwatersrand, told the ABC stats indicate South Africa has passed its peak.
"It was a short wave … and the good news is that it was not very severe in terms of hospitalisations and deaths,” she told the ABC.
"It is not unexpected in epidemiology that a very steep increase, like what we saw in November, is followed by a steep decrease."
David Pryce, a lecturer in biomedical science at Bangor University in Wales, wrote in an article in The Conversation “patients had, at worst, mild symptoms, and cases are now in steep decline”.
Daily cases fell from about 23,400 a week out from Christmas to about 17,400 on December 22, The Times reported.
Dr Waasila Jassat, of the National Institute for Communicable Diseases, told the publication “we’ve had a remarkable drop” in cases.
However, it’s not all good news. Researchers are still learning more about the variant and it’s not clear exactly how deadly it is.
Dr Pryce wrote some local reports suggest many cases hospitalised in South Africa indicate severe Covid with patients needing breathing apparatuses.
Dr Dan Goyal, a medical consultant for the National Health Service in the UK, tweeted data shows Omicron is still causing serious disease.
“ICU admissions have more than doubled and MV (ventilation) have tripled since December 5,” he tweeted.
Regardless, the US will lift travel restrictions to eight southern African nations.
A senior official said foreign nationals who are barred from flying to the US because they have been in one of the eight countries, including South Africa, will again be allowed to board US-bound flights leaving after midnight on December 31.
Reuters reported earlier that US public health agencies had recommended lifting the travel restrictions because the Omicron variant is already widespread within the US and existing vaccines and booster shots appear to be highly effective against it.
Earlier this month, the CDC toughened testing rules for international air travellers arriving in the US, requiring them to obtain a negative Covid-19 test within one day of travel.
Last week, the CDC started distributing free Covid-19 home test kits to international travellers at several airports.
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