Recent media activity on cases in South Africa and Omicron

COVID-19 Dec 15, 2021

During November and December I had been quoted in various articles around the case growth in South Africa associated with Omicron.  I am learning just how volatile the process of journalism is (especially the UK ones).  I was asked for an interview for one of these but this came at a extremely busy time so I did not respond in time so an article was ran based on what I said on my tweets.  The others didn't reach out to my knowledge.

I'm just diarising these as this might be my 15 minutes, but it's maybe also a lesson in understanding how journalism works and doesn't work.

The Times (2 December 2021)

How serious is the Omicron variant? What we know as cases rise
We have three facts. There are three things that we know to be true. First, there is a new variant with troubling mutations. Second, that variant is now in many

I was quoted as follows:

Louis Rossouw, a member of the Actuarial Society of South Africa’s Continuous Statistical Investigation Committee, calculated the reproduction rate in September — the one associated with Delta — to be 0.8. This meant that if ten people were infected they could pass it to eight: the pandemic shrunk. He calculated the R of Omicron to be above 2. Ten people were instead infecting 20.

The Telegraph (13 December 2021)

South Africa’s omicron Covid outbreaks may already be running out of steam
Country’s virus death rate now one in 200 – the lowest it has been throughout the pandemic and 10 times lower than last September

I am quoted as follows:

Louis Rossouw, of the Covid-19 Actuaries Response Group in South Africa, said that although the country had surpassed the peak of previous waves some areas were beginning to see a lull.

"Case growth is steeper than last week but still has slowed down versus November," he said. "In Gauteng, cases are still levelling off. Tshwane cases are relatively flat, with a slight increase in the most recent days."

The article then highlights some of the milder severity observed in South Africa.  It should be noted though that this may well be from increased vaccination since the previous (mainly Delta) wave.  The implication is then that it's not clear to me that this would be to the benefit of the paper's UK audience who had already been vaccinated in the Delta wave.

Financial Times (10 December 2021)

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So I wasn't really quoted in this, but I'm going to count it.  John Burn-Murdoch asked to use work I do to adjust cases before calculating R from them.  This was used in a graph in the above article and you would see me on the footnote of the graph.

Together with that John also followed and tweeted about my work to his considerable following (over 400k at the time of writing) which really exposed my work further and clearly increased my followers on Twitter tremendously.

As an example:

And also:

News24 (11 December 2021)

Kyle Cowan | Inside Omicron: Breathe, early evidence indicates variant may not be as bad as feared | News24
While work continues furiously to answer key questions over vaccine efficacy with the Omicron variant, early evidence suggests that while it still represents a threat, Omicron’s real-world impact may not be as bad as feared, writes Kyle Cowan.

In this piece the mention me as follows:

The effective reproductive rate of infections in South Africa, is decreasing after a sharp increase to levels over three - which means that every infected person in theory passed the virus on to three others, according to research published online by Louis Rossouw, an actuary who is a member of the Actuaries Covid-19 Response Group. While still high, it is falling, as pointed out by demography professor, Tom Moultrie.

The share Tom's tweet:

The Express (14 December 2021 x2)

Covid relief: Omicron already ‘running out of steam’ in South Africa despite UK panic
SOUTH AFRICAN data suggests that the Omicron variant of coronavirus is already “running out of steam”, while the strain spreads rapidly in Britain.
Light at end of tunnel? South African Omicron outbreak already ‘levelling off’ – new data
SOUTH AFRICA’S Omicron wave may already have begun to “level off”, health experts in the country have reported.

They had a few issues in their piece.  The 2nd headline is not in line with reality at the time.  Cases in South Africa was climbing rather rapidly at the time and I had been showing it.  Only Gauteng appeared to be levelling off.

They write:

In Gauteng, cases have also begun cases are levelling off, Louis Rossouw, of the COVID-19 Actuaries Response Group in South Africa said.

He told The Daily Telegraph: "Case growth is steeper than last week but still has slowed down versus November.

"In Gauteng, cases are still levelling off.["]

"Tshwane cases are relatively flat, with a slight increase in the most recent days."

Note these are just tweets.  They did not speak to me.

The go on to quote Pieter Streicher that said:

"Omicron is extremely mild. The rest of the world has nothing to fear."

I clearly disagree with that and given Pieter's history as part of PANDA disinformation and anti-vax group the paper may have needed to look at that.

The Sun (14 December 2021)

Omicron map shows earliest hotspots as cases spread rapidly in weeks
A NEW map reveals some of the earliest places hit with the Omicron variant, which is now spreading rapidly in the UK. Hotspots have emerged, focused mostly in the South East and London. But it is N…

I'm quoting along similar lines as other pieces as follows:

However, there is positive data coming from South Africa, which was first hit with the variant.

Cases in the hotspots of Gauteng province and the city of Tshwane appear to be stabilising, experts say.

"Case growth is steeper than last week but still has slowed down versus November," said Louis Rossouw, of the Covid-19 Actuaries Response Group in South Africa, according to The Telegraph.

"In Gauteng, cases are still levelling off. Tshwane cases are relatively flat, with a slight increase in the most recent days."

The Telegraph (14 December 2021):

Omicron likely to cause sharp rise in hospitalisations, warns Prof Chris Whitty
The Chief Medical Officer says there is no reliable evidence from South African scientists to show that Covid case rates have peaked

In this piece CMO of UK is quoted:

Chris Whitty has warned the Cabinet to expect a “significant increase in hospitalisations” because of omicron, as he said that claims Covid-19 has peaked in South Africa were not “reliable”.

The Chief Medical Officer said it was “too early” to say if South African cases were reducing or plateauing, but cautioned that there was “no reliable evidence” from South African scientists to show that case rates had peaked.

I'm then placed in contrast to that (unbeknownst to me):

Louis Rossouw, of the Covid-19 Actuaries Response Group in South Africa, said that although the country had surpassed the peak of previous waves, some areas were beginning to see a lull.

“Case growth is steeper than last week but still has slowed down versus November,” he said.

This while cases continue growing rather rapidly outside these hotspots, and where there are data issues that could be clouding the case numbers in SA.

I actually agree with Whitty though:

But Professor Whitty argued that Britain could expect to see a “significant increase” in hospitalisations as cases of the omicron variant continued to rise.

He told the Cabinet that it was too early to say how severe omicron was, but confirmed its doubling time was two to three days.

Newsweek (15 December 2021)

Omicron COVID cases may already be peaking where outbreak first started
Shabir Madhi, professor of vaccinology, told Newsweek that the Omicron wave will likely peak quicker than previous waves because of the new variant’s increased transmissibility.

I'm quoted as follows:

Another scientist noted that the average number of new cases for the past seven days in Tshwane, one of the early epicenters in Gauteng, is now "relatively flat."

"Case growth is steeper than last week but still has slowed down versus November," Louis Rossouw, of the COVID-19 Actuaries Response Group in South Africa, told The Telegraph on Sunday. "In Gauteng, cases are still levelling off. Tshwane cases are relatively flat, with a slight increase in the most recent days."

Daily Mail (18 December 2021)

Omicron cases in South African ground zero ‘peaked on 6 December’
Three weeks after the start of the wave, cases of the variant reached their highest level in Gauteng, which was first to feel the full force of the variant.

The same piece was published in News Nation USA.

The headline of the piece is based on a tweet of mine on the same day. A screenshot of the tweet is provided in the article:

There is a bit of a mistake in the article.  You should be able to spot it below (Hint - compare with the headline):

After reaching a peak of 10,100 per day on December 7 on a seven-day moving average, cases are now around 8,000 per day, according to Louis Rossouw, who has written a scientific paper on the Omicron variant in the country.

MyBroadband (19 December 2021)

Health minister gives South Africa a lockdown-free Christmas — for now
Health minister Joe Phaahla reportedly convinced the coronavirus command council to keep South Africa on lockdown level 1.

This piece is mainly about the Health Minister of South Africa, Joe Phaahla's decision not implement further lockdown measures before Christmas.

It includes this:

Actuarial scientist Louis Rossouw concurred, saying that cases in Mpumalanga, Limpopo, and the North West are slowing, but are still growing in other provinces.

Rossouw’s calculations also showed that the Covid–19 reproduction number in South Africa has declined to a range of 1.13 – 1.24.

MyBroadband (23 December 2021)

Covid-19 booster shot rollout approved in South Africa — when you can get it
The Department of Health has approved the implementation of Covid-19 vaccine booster doses in South Africa.

I'm quoted as follows:

Actuarial scientist Louis Rossouw added that the 7-day moving average of Covid-19 cases peaked on 12 December at around 22,000 cases per day.

Le Monde (24 December 2021)

Covid-19 : ce que l’on sait à ce stade du variant Omicron
Très contagieux, d’une dangerosité incertaine, répondant moins aux vaccins et à la plupart des médicaments disponibles, mal suivi par les tests : le portrait-robot de ce nouveau variant commence à se préciser.

I was also interviewed for a piece in Le Monde.  I don't have the quotes as it's behind a paywall.  

BizNews (24 December 2021)

I'm not linking to this site as it provided a platform for PANDA disinformation. It is a copy-paste from the MyBroadband piece of 23 December (see above).  They reference the original article but reproduce it word for word.

Other Foreign Language Pieces

TinTuc (Vietnam)

Nouvelles de Covid: Omicron se ‘stabilise’ en Afrique du Sud - Javid émet une alerte extrême | Monde | Des nouvelles
Au milieu des informations selon lesquelles la variante infecterait 200 000 personnes par jour sur la modélisation britannique actuelle, des experts de la

The above appears similar to the Daily Express piece?

Việt Nam bàn giao hài cốt quân nhân Mỹ mất tích trong chiến tranh; Tin ‘lạ’ ở nơi sản sinh Omicron
Tình hình thế giới ngày 14/12 có nhiều diễn biến mới đáng chú ý.

The Bizarre

There was a strange piece that pulled a chart from a district in SA with very few cases and called it the most infectious place in SA.  It had a number of factual errors etc.  Not linking to it.

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Louis Rossouw

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