Covid cases in South Africa drop by 38 per cent in a week as death figures boost evidence that Omicron variant is less severe than Delta

Cases of Covid in South Africa are continuing to fall, as the wave caused by Omicron appears to burn itself out.

The country, which was one of the first in the world to fall victim to Omicron, hit its peak in the seven days to December 17, when an average of 23,437 cases were recorded.

But by Monday, the number had plummeted by 38 per cent to 14,390 cases.

The figures are the average across seven days, making them more reliable than fluctuating day-to-day statistics, although fewer people get tested around Christmas and people in South Africa tend to leave large cities for rural areas, where they are less likely to get tested.

However the figures for deaths reflect the evidence from the UK that Omicron is significantly less severe than the previous Delta variant.

At the very start of the year, in South Africa, deaths hit their peak at an average of 578 a day in the seven days to January 4.

The daily toll now is around 60 deaths, bearing out suggestions that patients in South Africa have milder symptoms and are less likely to end up in hospital.

Jamie Jenkins, former head of health analysis at the Office for National Statistics, said: ‘This data confirms what the scientists in South Africa have been saying for a few weeks, that this is a variant which is more transmissible, making people more likely to catch it, but that the symptoms and the impact of it are less severe.

‘We are seeing far fewer deaths than we have in the past.’

Last week new data from South Africa showed nine in 10 deaths from Omicron were in unvaccinated patients.

Among the country’s 309 deaths from the variant, just 40 were found to be in people given two vaccine doses, illustrating the crucial protection provided by being jabbed.

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