The omicron coronavirus variant causes less severe disease than the delta strain even in those who are unvaccinated or who haven’t had a prior COVID-19 infection, a study from South Africa’s Western Cape province showed.

The research in the region where Cape Town is the capital compared 11,609 patients from the first three waves of infection, the most recent of which was caused by the delta variant, and 5,144 patients from the latest omicron-driven wave.

The findings add to growing evidence that while more infectious, omicron may be less virulent than some of its predecessors. Data from South Africa, the first country to have a major outbreak caused by the strain, has so far shown lower hospitalization and death rates.