As is happening across the world, there are signs that the Omicron variant of COVID-19 is spreading rapidly across Peru. Despite the lack of Omicron-specific data being published by Peru’s Ministry of Health (Minsa), it is apparent that this variant is spreading rapidly very, very fast here just as it is everywhere else.
Positivity Rates of Testing
The most accurate measure of viral transmission that we have is the Positivity Rate of Testing — what percentage of a tested population is positive. This kind of sampling allows us to get a picture of how many people are contagious. Fortunately, Peru has increased testing considerably which provides an even more accurate picture.
From a amazing 7-day low of 2.09% on November 2, the rate has steadily climbed in the last two months with the last week exhibiting explosive growth. With vaccination rates across the country reaching 78% of those age 12 and older having at least two vaccine doses, the only explanation is the presence of the Omicron variant.
While this rapid spread is very alarming, other data indicates that vaccinations are doing exactly what they are designed to do. Unlike the lie that many anti-vaccination community spread, vaccinations are not designed to keep someone from getting COVID. They are designed to drastically minimize the chances of infection and, even more important, almost completely keep a vaccinated person from experiencing serious symptoms. (Almost every COVID patient in the hospital now is not fully vaccinated.)
Fortunately, hospitalizations from COVID remain low and the number of COVID patients in ICU care continues a steady decline. The slight recent rise is likely die to waning effects of the those who received their initial vaccine doses more than six months ago. Again, this is exactly as predicted.
There has been a slight rise in average daily deaths each month over the past two months, but that average actually saw a significant decreasing trend in the past 2 weeks.
As should be obvious to all, making long-term predictions is a fraught with complications and uncertainties, but there are some solid likelihoods that are certain to happen.
Most important is that the next month will be the real indicator of what happened in December. Did the regulations put in place to discourage gatherings where spread is more likely? Did Peruvians remember what happened last year when the number of deaths skyrocketed because of holiday gatherings? Will vaccinations continue to do their job or will the slow movement to get booster shots hinder efforts to control not only the spread of COVID, but also minimize its effects?
You can see from the chart below just how horrible was the “second wave” that came early in 2021. (It’s also obvious from the chart when the application of vaccines started in Peru.)
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I expect the number of hospitalizations and deaths will rise slightly as a result of minimal booster shots in Peru, but the number will not come close to equaling last year’s devastation. We should be seeing corroborating data sometime in the next 2-4 weeks.
For those who say this doesn’t look all that bad, remember that every death is a human being with family and friends. Every person who gets sick is a person who must isolate, must miss work, and must stay away from their family and friends even if for a short time.