Recent research from South Africa suggests that the Omicron variant is much less dangerous than previous strains of the virus, even when increased immunity in the population is taken into account. Examining the first three weeks of the spread of the Omicron wave, researchers found that those infected with the Delta and original Wuhan variants were more likely to be hospitalised due to Covid, even though the new variant has a higher transmissibility rate. The Times has the story.
The findings come from a healthcare provider responsible for 3.7 million patients in South Africa and are based on the first three weeks of their Omicron wave. They suggest that some of the effects of greater spread could be offset by a lower chance of hospitalisation.
Dr. Ryan Noach, the Chief Executive of Discovery Health, said that although the data was preliminary, they were confident they were seeing a less severe wave than they might have expected. “This is clearly a highly contagious variant,” he said. “What’s encouraging at this stage is a flatter trajectory of hospital admissions, indicating a likely lower severity of the illness.”
For every 1,000 infections, 44 people ended up in hospital in South Africa in the first wave, 101 in the Delta wave and 38 in Omicron. He and his colleagues estimate that after correcting for vaccination status, age and prior infection Omicron is a third less severe than the original Wuhan strain of coronavirus, which itself is less serious than Delta…
Dominic Raab, the Justice Secretary, insisted today that the Covid vaccination campaign meant “people can look forward to spending Christmas with loved ones in a way that we couldn’t last year”.
However, ministers will not rule out further restrictions such as the closure of pubs and restaurants to tame the Omicron variant. “These issues are always discussed but we have got ‘Plan B’. That’s what we think is required over the Christmas period,” Raab said.
Officials are understood to be drawing up options for further restrictions that could be implemented before New Year’s Eve, but no decisions have been made.
However, health chiefs said this morning that Covid restrictions were likely to be needed for a month or two. Susan Hopkins, Chief Medical Adviser to the U.K. Health Security Agency, warned of a “very difficult four weeks ahead” as the new variant surged across the country.
Worth reading in full.