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South African officials report 'much lower rate' of hospital admissions during Omicron wave

In a rare bit of good news to come out of the current Omicron variant-driven COVID-19 wave, South Africa, where the new, highly-transmissible strain was first detected, reported on Friday "a much lower rate of hospital admissions" as well as "signs that the wave of infections might be peaking," Bloomberg reports.

Only 1.7 percent of identified COVID-19 cases were admitted to the hospital in the second week of infections of this fourth wave, versus 19 percent in the second week of the third, Delta variant-driven wave, said South African Health Minister Joe Phaahla at a press conference.

Officials also shared evidence that "the strain may be milder, and that infections may already be peaking in the country's most populous province, Gauteng," writes Bloomberg

All that said, however, new cases in week two of this fourth wave were over 20,000 a day, "compared with 4,400 in the same week of the third wave."

Also reportedly inflating this wave's hospitalization rate is the fact that "milder patients are being admitted because there is room to accommodate them," Bloomberg writes, per officials; some admittants are even there for other complaints. There are currently about 7,600 people hospitalized with COVID in South Africa, which is about 40 percent of the peak in the second and third waves.

"We have seen a decrease in a proportion of people who need to be on oxygen," said Waasila Jassat, a researcher with the National Institute for Communicable Diseases, at the press conference. "They are at very low levels."