Wednesday, 15 December 2021 21:43

Study reveals Omicron infects 70 times faster as SA records 26,976 new cases.

By Lehlohonolo Lehana.

The National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD),reports 26,976 new COVID-19 cases that have been identified in South Africa, which brings the total number of laboratory-confirmed cases to 3,231,031. This increase represents a 32.2% positivity rate.

The majority of new cases today are from Gauteng (30%), followed by KwaZulu-Natal (22%). Western Cape accounted for 17%; Eastern Cape accounted for 8%; Free State accounted for 6%; Limpopo, Mpumalanga and North West each accounted for 5%; and Northern Cape accounted for 2% of today’s new cases.

The proportion of positive new cases/total new tested today is 32,2% which is lower than yesterday (34,9%). The 7-day average is 28,0% today, which is higher than yesterday (27,2%).

NICD said a further 54 COVID-19 related deaths have been reported, bringing total fatalities to 90,226 to date. 

Meanwhile the omicron variant replicates around 70 times faster than delta and the original Covid-19 strain, though the infection severity is likely to be much lower, according to a University of Hong Kong study that adds weight to the early on-ground observations from South African doctors.

The supercharged speed of omicron’s spread in the human bronchus was found 24 hours following infection, according to a Wednesday statement from the university.

The study, conducted by a team of researchers led by Michael Chan Chi-wai, found that the newest variant of concern replicated less efficiently – more than 10 times lower – in the human lung tissue than the original strain which may signal "lower severity of disease."

The study, which suggests that omicron jumps faster from one person to another but doesn’t damage lung tissues as much as its predecessor strains did, is currently under peer review for publication in a scientific journal. Bloomberg didn’t have access to the entire study.

With scientists racing to determine how transmissible, virulent and evasive omicron is – it has already travelled to at least 77 nations within three weeks of being first detected in southern Africa – the new research out of Hong Kong may add ballast to descriptions by some physicians that most infections have so far been mostly mild and not requiring hospitalizations.