In South Africa, the first country to face Omicron, the decline is well underway

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New Year’s Eve took on the air of revenge in South Africa. As a snub to the world that put the country in quarantine after the announcement of the discovery of Omicron on November 25, 2021, the South African authorities announced the lifting of the curfew in force for twenty-one months on evening of December 31.

As Europe in particular returns to health restrictions in an attempt to stem the spread of this highly transmissible variant, only a handful of constraints on gatherings remain in place in South Africa.

Read also Omicron variant: South Africa says peak of contaminations has passed, without significant rise in death toll

The peak of the Omicron wave was officially crossed two weeks ago without hospitals being overwhelmed, South African authorities said before announcing the lifting of the curfew. Impressive in terms of the number of infections, the breaking waves began to recede much earlier than the first waves: the peak was reached twice as quickly as in previous episodes.

A logical consequence of the high contagiousness of the variant, analyzes the virologist Alex Sigal, of the Africa Health Research Institute in Durban, who studies the mutations of the virus and its ability to escape the immune response: “Infections go up so quickly with Omicron that they can only come down so quickly because everyone is infected at the same time,” explains the researcher.

The number of deaths on the decline

Over the past week, the number of cases has fallen by 48% in South Africa and, “Even if this decline is probably exaggerated because of the decrease in the number of tests [liée aux vacances d’été sud-africaines], the positivity rate is also decreasing, which confirms that we are indeed witnessing a decline ”, says Ridhwaan Suliman, doctor of applied mathematics at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, a South African public research organization. The still high test positivity rate has fallen from over 35% to 25.8% over the past week.

The number of hospitalizations also seems to have crossed a peak, even if the reflux is less spectacular than that of the number of cases at this stage (- 6% of hospitalizations during the past week compared to the previous one) due to the a gap traditionally observed between the evolution of the number of cases and that of the situation in hospitals.

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In South Africa, the first country to face Omicron, the decline is well underway