Netcare, 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.
About 90% of Covid-19 patients currently in Netcare hospitals need no oxygen therapy and are considered incidental cases, he said.
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, he 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.
Mediclinic, one of South Africa’s three biggest hospital groups, said while it is seeing an increased influx of Covid-19 patients “only a few require admission for further care.”
The South African unit of the group, in a statement on Tuesday, said its seeing a greater proportion of children under 12 than in previous waves in South Africa and many asymptomatic patients admitted for other ailments.
Of Covid-19 patients admitted 25% are vaccinated as are 16% of those in intensive care, the unit said.
The variant “appears to be highly transmissible,” said Gerrit de Villiers, the chief clinical officer of the Mediclinic unit. Still, “so far, a lower percentage of admitted Covid-19 patients require intensive care and ventilation,” he said.
The findings are similar to those put out earlier by the South African Medical Research Council and the National Institute for Communicable Diseases on Covid-19 hospitalizations.