When South African scientists sequenced the new variant in late November, it caused ripples through the community at large. Officials feared it could bypass vaccine immunity, knocking the world back to pandemic response square one. But new data taken from hotspots in Africa have provided some rare positive news, as it appears less dangerous.
The South African National Institute For Communicable Diseases (NICD) sequenced the first Omicron cases from neighbouring Botswana.
South Africa has since become an Omicron hotspot, reporting close to 2,000 new infections since the wave began.
The totals are nearing those caused by Delta in the days following its discovery last year.
But the news has left scientists cautiously optimistic, as hospitalisations don’t appear to be following the same path.
Although that data emphasises hospitalisations are increasing, Omicron is so far proving milder.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) recently released a report indicating similar findings.
Including Africa, at least 38 countries have announced Omicron cases so far.
Last weekend WHO representatives confirmed they had not received reports of Omicron deaths from any of these nations.
And that is despite some reporting hundreds of infections.
In Europe, the UK is the most infected country, with a growing Omicron presence on top of tens of thousands of Delta cases.
On December 7, officials recorded another 101 cases to 437 in total.
England has taken the brunt of the infections, with 72 recorded locally compared to 28 in Scotland and one more in Wales.
Scientists fear rising Omicron infections could contribute to a sky-high caseload this month.
On Tuesday, officials recorded 45,691 new cases in total.
By Christmas, modelling by Professor Christina Pagel, director of University College London’s Clinical Operational Research Unit, showed this could increase to 90,000.
Her predictions were hailed as a “plausible” prediction as cases continue their rapid climb.