South Africa has passed the peak of Omicron Covid-19 infections, researchers say

South Africa passed the peak of its Omicron outbreak, according to one of the country’s top scientific researchers.

The country has “surpassed the peak of the Omicron wave now, driven by the significant decline in the populous province and epicenter: Gauteng,” Ridhwaan Suliman, senior researcher at the South African Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) said on Wednesday

There was a 20.8% decrease in the number of new Covid-19 cases detected in South Africa as of December 18, according to the National Institute for Communicable Diseases’ epidemiology brief published Wednesday.

Most other provinces in the country have also passed their peaks, Suliman said.

NICD data shows a 23% decrease in recorded cases in North West Province over the past week (now at 40.3 cases per 100,000 people).

In Limpopo Province there was a 14% decrease in recorded cases over the last week, and in Mpumalanga Province, a 6% decrease, according to the NICD data.

The news comes as the Omicron variant continues to take a grip of many countries around the world, including in the United States, where the variant has now been detected in every state. Meanwhile, countries across Europe are reintroducing Covid restrictions to battle this latest wave, driven by the new variant.

Suliman characterized the country’s fourth wave as a “steeper wave,” that was “significantly shorter” than those prior, saying in a tweet that it took “about half the number of days to reach the peak compared with previous waves in South Africa.”

According to Suliman, although test positivity remains “still high at 29.8%,” the fact the figure is decreasing confirms “the decline in infections is real and not a testing artifact.”

Hospitalizations and deaths from this wave have proven to be “significantly lower relative to that experienced in previous waves,” Suliman said.

South African scientists were the first to identify the Omicron variant earlier this month, helping to raise the alarm to the rest of the world.