JOHANNESBURG — South Africa's drop in new COVID-19 cases in recent days may signal the country's dramatic omicron-driven surge has passed its peak, medical experts say.
Although the early findings are not conclusive, especially because daily figures are prone to fluctuations, the signs that South Africa's intense wave is weakening are notable.
The world is intently watching because South Africa is where omicron was first identified and where the variant first spiked infections.
After hitting a high of nearly 27,000 new cases nationwide on Thursday, the numbers dropped to about 15,424 on Tuesday. In Gauteng province — South Africa's most populous with 16 million people, including the largest city, Johannesburg, and the capital, Pretoria — the decrease started earlier and has continued.
This week, the U.S. got its first taste of an impending omicron surge. On Monday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that omicron cases now represent about three-quarters of new infections across the country. Just a week ago, omicron represented just 3% of new cases.
On Monday, the U.S. recorded 289,000 new COVID-19 cases — the second-highest daily caseload the country had ever seen.
On Tuesday, President Joe Biden said that Americans should be aware of the threats of omicron but noted that those who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and have gotten their booster shot should be sufficiently protected.
"I know you're tired, I know you're frustrated, but we're still in it. This is a critical moment," Biden said.