I have been looking at the drop in case numbers in South Africa and pondering what might be driving them downward. It dawned on me that perhaps it was a false signal given the time of year, because I had seen a similar pattern in US data.
I did a search for holidays in the country and found exactly what I had been suspecting. Winter break in South Africa begins December 15th. A similar, but much smaller dip occurs about the same time last year. It’s very possible that it’s less easily distinguished because the case volumes were lower and the rates of case growth were slower.
Something similar is seen in the US, but in a much more obvious way, partly due to the considerably higher case number. The drops are very noticeable for case counts at Thanksgiving and Christmas breaks.
I interpret that as it may suggest two very important points.
- Schools play a very important role in community spread.
- The drop in cases in South Africa may be an artifact of schools closing for winter break.
Time will tell, but I don’t think any narrative the omicron peaks and retreats quickly is an accurate assessment. It’s simply too soon to know until the holidays have past.