- S. African Omicron study suggests reduced risk of severe illness
- Many see booster shots as key to reining in Omicron
- South Korean business groups protest against new curbs
JOHANNESBURG, Dec 22 (Reuters) – A South African study offered Christmas glad tidings about the severity of Omicron and the trend of COVID-19 infections on Wednesday as the fast-spreading coronavirus variant forced countries across the world to impose new curbs.
COVID-19 cases also appear to have peaked in South Africa’s Gauteng province, which is its commercial hub and the region of the country where Omicron first emerged.
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Elsewhere, governments raced to contain the variant’s rapid spread, urging citizens to vaccinate as Omicron becomes the dominant strain and upending reopening plans that many had hoped would herald the end of the pandemic, and unnerving financial markets. read more
Germany, Scotland, Ireland, the Netherlands and South Korea have reimposed partial or full lockdowns or other social distancing measures in recent days. read more
Wales will reintroduce social distancing from Dec. 26. Health experts in Germany said new curbs there probably did not go far enough. The health minister said he had not ruled out a full lockdown. read more
Italy is preparing new measures and might make vaccinations obligatory for more categories of workers, Prime Minister Mario Draghi said.
Austria is to order a 10 p.m. close in the hospitality sector and classified Britain, Denmark, the Netherlands and Norway as risk areas, meaning arrivals from there must go into quarantine if they have not had a booster shot.
Belgium, the Czech Republic and Spain were also considering new curbs. The Indian capital of New Delhi banned Christmas and other celebrations. read more
The Chinese city of Xian told its 13 million residents to stay at home as it struggles to contain rising COVID-19 cases under Beijing’s zero-tolerance policy. Xian, home to the Terracotta Warriors, has not imposed a harsh lockdown as seen in early 2020 in Wuhan, where the coronavirus was first identified, but urged residents not to leave town.
Omicron was first detected last month in southern Africa and Hong Kong. Preliminary data indicates it is more resistant to vaccines developed before it emerged.
South Africa’s NICD study, conducted with major universities, has not been peer-reviewed. It compared South African Omicron data from October and November with data about Delta between April and November.
The authors found that the risk of hospital admission was roughly 80% lower for those with Omicron, and that for those in hospital the risk of severe disease was roughly 30% lower.
“In South Africa, this is the epidemiology: Omicron is behaving in a way that is less severe,” said Professor Cheryl Cohen of the NICD, one of the authors.
“Compellingly, together our data really suggest a positive story of a reduced severity of Omicron compared to other variants.”
Read More News: S.African study offers Omicron hope as nations reimpose curbs