Could the Omicron variant actually end up saving lives? The omicron variant death rate is a lot lower than others, including Delta. If Delta is completely pushed out by Omicron then yes, lives would end up being saved (or at least, not so many people will end up dying).
There is a new study that has come out of South Africa. The study says the people hospitalized during the Omicron wave had fewer severe COVID-19 symptoms and were not as likely to die.
When conducting the study, researchers compared the summer wave in 2020, the winter wave in the same year, and the spring wave in 2021. They studied these waves in order to assess how the omicron variant stacked up against them.
The study can be found on the JAMA Network.
The percentages concerning the Omicron death rate
During the COVID-19 delta variant wave, 74% of hospitalized patients required oxygen therapy. In comparison, just 17.6% of hospitalized patients needed it during the omicron wave.
Hospital length of stays lowered too. The average time that an infected patient stayed in the hospital for was 8 days pre-omicron. By comparison, the average is now 3 days now that the omicron variant is dominant.
The omicron death rate has plummeted. Pre-omicron the death rate was 29.1%, this has dropped to 2.7% with the omicron variant.
These percentages come as we have seen what appears to be the end of the omicron variant wave in South Africa. Reuters reported on December 31st that health officials in South Africa said they believe the Omicron variant had passed its peak. This prompted the South Africa government to lift its curfew. The imposed curfew had been in place for almost 2 years.
Despite the lifting of the curfew, researchers have not been relying on omicron variant data from South Africa. This is because the population of South Africa had a high level of COVID-19 virus immunity thanks to the previous surges.
It takes time to interpret the COVID-19 data
The WHO’s incident manager for COVID-19, Dr. Abdi Mahamud, said it is still too early to interpret all of the data coming from South Africa. This is especially true when it comes to assessing just how the omicron variant will affect different populations.
“We all want this disease to be milder, but the population it affected so far is the younger. How it behaves in the elderly population, the vulnerable — we don’t know yet”… “It’s too early to determine, we’re optimistic, but I think we shouldn’t over-interpret the data coming from South Africa.”
The omicron death rate numbers look very promising. We should hold off on the celebrations though, at least for the moment. In the meantime, the fact that hospital stays are shortening is going to be good news for hospitals across the world.
We should remember too that there will probably be other variants before the pandemic is over, but it does look as though things are slowing down even as omicron is speeding up.
And also remember that even if you are fully vaccinated, don’t become complacent. We still need to be doing everything else too. That means wearing masks, especially in enclosed public spaces, social distancing, and maintaining proper hand hygiene.
“Omicron is spreading at a rate we have not seen with any previous variant. I need to be very clear: vaccines alone will not get any country out of this crisis. It’s not vaccines instead of masks, distancing, ventilation, or hand hygiene.Do it all. Do it consistently. Do it well.”Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus
Curious for more? Read more about omicron symptoms here.