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SA’s coronavirus cases just rocketed past the peak of the first wave

Business Insider SA
Coronavirus cases
South Africa's 7-day moving average of coronavirus case reports, via the News24 Covid-19 dashboard.
  • Reported new cases of coronavirus infection in South Africa are now higher than they were at the peak of the first wave.
  • SA recorded 19,842 new cases on Wednesday, compared to 13,944 on 24 July last year, when the initial wave of infections peaked.
  • The more reliable 7-day moving average of cases – now at 13,493 – is also higher than in July last year, when it never breached 13,000.
  • Though hospital admissions are climbing, the number of patients on ventilation and in intensive care remains low.
  • For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

On Wednesday, South Africa's fourth wave of coronavirus infections overtook the peak of the first wave, as the Omicron variant spreads far and fast.

The 19,842 new cases added to the national tally on Wednesday is the highest one-day number since July this year, when the Delta-driven third wave was in full swing.

That one-day count is well above the peak seen on 24 July last year, the worst of the first wave, when 13,944 new cases were recorded.

Thanks to rapid growth in December, the 7-day moving average of new cases for South Africa – a more reliable measure for the state of the pandemic because it smooths out bureaucratic reporting lumps – is now also well above the peak of the first wave.

As of Wednesday night, South Africa's 7-day moving average is at 13,493, compared to an average that never breached 13,000 during July 2020.

Hospital admissions have been climbing fast, but from a very low base in late November, and the number of people on ventilators and in intensive care remains low.

On Wednesday, the number of people in hospital stands at 4,252, with 368 in ICU. 

In both the second and third waves, admissions peaked above 17,000, with just under and just over 2,500 people in intensive care at peak for the second and third waves, respectively.

Hospital admissions
The state of hospitals, via the News24 Covid-19 Dashboard.

The Omicron wave had so far brought relatively mild symptoms, doctors have reported, albeit with heavy warnings that it was too early to tell for sure. Hospital group Netcare this week described a majority of Covid-19 patients as presenting with mild to moderate flu-like symptoms, including headaches, sore throats, and noses either runny or blocked.

But the fear is still that Omicron's apparently wildly infectious nature could see health systems in many countries overwhelmed by sheer weight of numbers, even if a small percentage of those infected are at risk of death.

(Compiled by Phillip de Wet)

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