Netcare Ltd., which operates the largest private healthcare network in South Africa, is seeing milder Covid-19 cases even as omicron is driving up the number of people testing positive for the virus.
The symptoms displayed by patients in Netcare’s hospitals in the epicenter of the current fourth wave, the province of Gauteng, “are far milder than anything we experienced during the first three waves,” Chief Executive Officer Richard Friedland said in a statement Wednesday.
This echos initial findings from two other local hospital groups that show most Covid patients are not needing oxygen or intensive treatment. Scientists are still conducting scores of tests in order to get a better grasp of omicron’s risks and much will only be known in coming weeks.
During the first three waves, the rate of hospital admissions rose in tandem with the rate of community transmission and this may now be “decoupling,” Friedland said.
About 90% of Covid patients currently in Netcare hospitals need no oxygen therapy and are considered incidental cases, he said. Eight of the 337 Covid-19 positive patients currently in Netcare hospitals are being ventilated and of these, two are primary trauma cases that also happened to test positive for Covid.
With 800 Covid-19 positive patients admitted to Netcare hospitals since Nov. 15, about 75% of these were unvaccinated. Of the four deaths ascribed to Covid during this time, all had “significant co-morbidities” and were between 58 and 91 years old. Three of these patients were not vaccinated.
Life Healthcare Group Holdings Ltd., another of the country’s three largest private hospital groups, said Wednesday it has 321 admitted Covid cases, with about 20% of those in its intensive care unit. Of the total admissions, about 30% are younger than 30 years old, Life said.
“While we fully recognize that it is still early days, if this trend continues, it would appear that with a few exceptions of those requiring tertiary care, the fourth wave can be adequately treated at a primary care level,” Friedland said.