A widely reported U.K. study has found “no evidence” the omicron variant is milder than delta, but in South Africa, where omicron is now the dominant COVID-19 strain, officials reported Friday hospitalizations are down considerably.
South Africa, seen as a harbinger of omicron’s spread elsewhere since announcing discovery of the variant on Nov. 25, reported only 1.7% of identified COVID-19 cases were admitted to hospitals in the second week of infections in the fourth wave. That’s compared with 19% in the same week of the third delta-driven wave, South African Health Minister Joe Phaahla said at a press conference reported by Bloomberg News.
In fact, the U.K. researchers cautioned in the report of their findings that hospitalization data “remains very limited at this time.”
The U.K. study was led by Neil Ferguson, the infectious disease modeler and government science adviser whose call for lockdowns, based on a model of 2.2 million U.S. deaths, was used by White House coronavirus advisers Dr. Anthony Fauci and Dr. Deborah Birx to convince President Trump to call for unprecedented stay-at-home measures in the spring of 2020.
Ferguson said his new omicron study “finds no evidence of omicron having lower severity than Delta, judged by either the proportion of people testing positive who report symptoms, or by the proportion of cases seeking hospital care after infection,” the Financial Times reported
But South African health officials presented evidence that the omicron strain is milder and that infections may already be peaking in the country’s most populous province, Gauteng.
Many scientists, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, have said the early indications are that the omicron strain is considerably less virulent than delta but much more contagious.
That assessment shows up in the South Africa data, where officials recorded more than 20,000 in one week compared to 4,400 in the same week of the third wave.
Currently there are about 7,600 people with Covid-19 in South African hospitals, about 40% of the peak in the second and third waves.
Ontarians should know that our covid ICU numbers dropped down to 157 today — which is lower than where it was through much of September, when it hovered around the 160s for a while.
— Anthony Furey (@anthonyfurey) December 17, 2021
In May 2020, Ferguson was outed by the Daily Telegraph for violating the lockdown rules he had championed so he could to conduct an affair with a married woman.
In March 2021, amid widespread criticism, Ferguson acknowledged his COVID-19 model was based on undocumented, 13-year-old computer code that was designed for an anticipated influenza pandemic. He refused to release his original code so his results could be peer-reviewed.
He’s made many predictions that didn’t turn out to be true, as the Wall Street Journal’s John Fund has documented.
In 2001, Ferguson’s prediction that thousands of people could die from an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease prompted the killing of 11 million sheep and cattle. But fewer than 200 people have died.
In 2002, he forecast that 50,000 people would die from mad cow disease in beef. But only 177 died in the U.K.
In 2005, Ferguson predicted bird flu would kill up to 150 million people. But between 2003 and 2009, only 282 people died worldwide.
In 2009, Ferguson’s advice was the basis for the British government’s “reasonable worst-case scenario” that the swine flu would cause 65,000 British deaths. Only 457 people died in the U.K.
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