Netcare, which operates South Africa’s biggest private healthcare network, is seeing "significantly fewer patients" with pre-existing medical and respiratory conditions hospitalised during the Omicron-driven fourth wave.
The proportion of people with serious respiratory conditions seeking treatment was almost 32%, compared with more than 91% during the third wave when the delta strain was dominant, Netcare said in a research note.
Covid-19 patients needing oxygen in the current spike in infections have plunged to about 18% from 74% in the previous wave, according to the study.
The highly transmissible omicron variant, which was first identified in southern Africa, appears less likely to cause serious illness, particularly in vaccinated people.
"A different pattern of characteristics and outcomes in patients hospitalized with Covid-19 was observed in the early phase of the fourth wave compared with earlier waves in South Africa, with younger patients having fewer comorbidities, fewer hospitalizations and respiratory diagnoses, and a decrease in severity and mortality," Netcare said.