Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of World Health Organization (WHO), stated Wednesday that he is concerned about the possibility of the coronavirus’s delta and omicron variants creating a “tsunami” of cases. He said that omicron is more transmissible than delta and is circulating at the exact same time as it. This raises concerns about the potential for a tsunami in cases.
Tedros stated that this scenario would place “immense stress on exhausted health workers, and health systems at the brink of collapse.”
According to the agency the number of COVID-19-related cases worldwide increased by 11% last Wednesday. New cases in Europe accounted more than half the total while cases in the Americas grew 39%. There was an increase of 7% in Africa. The agency stated in its weekly epidemiological reports that the “overall” risk related to omicron is “very high.”
Scientists continue to study the variant’s transmission, severity, immune response and ability to evade vaccinations. Top officials caution that it is too early to be comforted by preliminary data that suggests that omicron may cause milder diseases.
In November, the WHO designated omicron as a “variant in concern”. The variant B.1.1.529 was reported from South Africa on Nov. 24, 2009. The majority of infections began among South African youth, and the country quickly became the epicenter for the omicron wave.
The United States banned travel from South Africa, and seven other countries in southern Africa, on Nov. 29. President Biden issued a proclamation on Tuesday revoking the ban.
A study from South Africa suggests that the U.S. may have reached the peak of its omicron-fueled increase in COVID-19 infections as it sets new records. Published in the International Journal of Infectious Diseases (IJID), the researchers reported that there was a decrease in the severity of disease in an omicron-driven 4th wave in Tshwane. There were fewer deaths, ICU admissions, and shorter stays at hospitals.
The authors stated that the wave “grew at a faster pace than other waves, completely displaced the delta variant in a matter of weeks, and began its decline both in cases and hospital admissions within the fifth week after its commencement.” The authors stated that there were clear signs that South Africa’s case and admission rates could decline over the coming weeks.
A patient is given a throat swab to check for COVID-19, at a Soweto facility, South Africa. Dec. 2, 2021. Medical experts believe that South Africa’s recent drop in COVID-19 cases may indicate that the country’s omicron-driven surge is over.
The study compared hospital records from Tshwane hospitals to determine the rate at which patients progressed.
The authors stated that the omicron epidemic had spread rapidly and declined in Tshwane within a short time span. It reached its peak within four weeks. “Hospital admissions rose rapidly and then began to fall within 33 days.”
The peak of the wave occurred in the week of December 5, with the highest occupancy rate of COVID-19 beds at around half the level that was occupied during July’s peak.
The authors stated that “the changing clinical presentation of SARS/CoV-2 infection is likely to be due to high levels prior infection and vaccination coverage.” They also noted that 66.7% of Tshwane residents have some type of immunity.
“The rate at which the fourth wave of [omicron-driven] waves rose, peaked, and then fell was amazing. A peak in four weeks, and precipitous fall in two more. The City of Tshwane has seen the end of this omicron wave. It was a flash flooding more than a wave,” Fareed Abdullah (director of South African Medical Research Council’s AIDS/TB research) tweeted Thursday.
South Africa lifted the midnight-to-4 a.m. curfew on Thursday. A statement from a special cabinet meeting stated that all indicators suggested that the country might have reached the peak of the fourth wave at the national level.