Early research from fourth wave Covid hospitalisations in the WC shows pneumonia less of a factor

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  • A new study investigated the differences between the third and fourth Covid waves in the Western Cape.
  • The province saw less severe Covid-19 and fewer deaths during the Omicron wave.
  • Experts also reported lower demand for oxygen in public facilities.

Public hospitals in the Western Cape saw fewer Covid-19-related admissions and recorded fewer pneumonia-related deaths during the Omicron-driven fourth wave, new research shows.

The preprint study published in medRxiv compared Covid-19 deaths in the Western Cape during the Delta-driven third wave to the fourth (Omicron) wave.

The researchers collected electronic data from the Western Cape Provincial Health Data Centre. They compared public hospital admissions during the third and fourth waves. They also assessed deaths during hospitalisation or within 14 days of discharge from a public sector hospital.

Each death was independently investigated by two clinicians, who reviewed data including laboratory tests, prescribed medication, and electronic clinical records to determine the likely cause of death.

The researchers grouped the deaths into three categories:

  • Death caused by Covid-19 pneumonia
  • Covid-related, but with the presence of comorbidity, or with another cause of death like trauma or surgery
  • The cause of death could not be determined

Omicron wave less severe

The study findings show that the fourth wave was less severe than the third wave in the Western Cape. Public hospitals in the province saw fewer hospitalisations and deaths in the Omicron-driven wave than the Delta wave.

The results show that 50 Covid-19-related deaths occurred within five days in the third wave, while it took 12 days during the fourth wave to reach the same number of deaths. The data on deaths during the Omicron wave show that 50% of Covid-19 deaths occurred in those with evidence of Covid-19 pneumonia, compared to 78% seen in the third wave.

The researchers also found lower oxygen consumption in the fourth wave because of fewer cases of severe Covid-19 pneumonia.

In the latest Covid-19 provincial update, the Western Cape Department of Health said that they also recorded a reduced use of oxygen in public facilities. The province currently uses 17.03 tons of oxygen daily, while usage was almost three times higher during the Delta wave.

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