The false narrative that the omicron variant is nothing worse than a cold persists. The data from South Africa now makes it clear that is not true.
First, it’s important to understand that omicron is the dominant variant in the country, as shown by the red line on this graph plotted against the incidence of COVID cases (blue) over time. Cases are measured on the left axis, the percentage of a variant on the right.
The next graph provides cases against the three categories of hospitalization in the country. Minor colds don’t cause major climbs in general hospitalization (green line), especially during what is their summertime.
In the next graph, I’ve removed general ward admissions to provide a better visualization of their high care (yellow – what might be thought of as a step down unit in the US) and ICU care (red). A mild illness does not drive admissions for that level of care either.
The immunization data is a little harder to see for the country, but the curves for first and second doses and be connected to see the curves.
The ICU/high care data for the country suggests that recent delta infection or immunization prevent severe illness., hence the lower amount of these services as a ratio to cases than in prior waves.
Take omicron seriously. It spreads with amazing speed and clearly causes much more severe illness than many people believe. Wear a N95 or similar mask. Don’t share indoor air space unless necessary. Improve ventilation and/or use HEPA filters.
The country is in for something really quite unimaginable to most people.