Scientists: Early Omicron findings encouraging

London – People catching Omicron are 50 per cent to 70 per cent less likely to need hospital care compared with previous variants, a major analysis says.

The United Kingdom Health Security Agency says its early findings are “encouraging” but the variant could still lead to large numbers of people in hospital.

The health secretary said it was “too early” to determine “next steps”.

The study also shows the jab’s ability to stop people catching Omicron starts to wane ten weeks after a booster dose.

Protection against severe disease is likely to be far more robust.

The report comes hot on the heels of data from South Africa, Denmark, England and Scotland which all pointed to reduced severity.

The latest analysis is based on all cases of Omicron and Delta in the UK since the beginning of November, including 132 people admitted to hospital with the variant. There have also been 14 deaths in people within 28 days of catching Omicron.

The report shows people catching Omicron are:

31 per cent to 45 per cent less likely to go to A&E
50 per cent to 70 per cent less likely to be admitted to hospital for treatment

However, a milder virus could still put pressure on hospitals because it spreads so fast.

The issue remains that any benefit of a milder virus could be wiped out by large numbers of people catching Omicron. The UK has set another daily COVID-19 record with 119 789 confirmed cases. There were a further 147 deaths within 28 days of a positive test.

There is also uncertainty about what will happen when Omicron reaches older age groups because most of those catching it and going into hospital so far have been under the age of 40.

Hospital admissions increasing

Health Secretary Sajid Javid said the early data was “promising” and government was monitoring the data “hour-by-hour”.

But he warned: “Cases of the variant continue to rise at an extraordinary rate – already surpassing the record daily number in the pandemic. Hospital admissions are increasing, and we cannot risk the NHS being overwhelmed.”

The government has announced it will not be introducing any new restrictions in England before Christmas but measures could still be introduced if case numbers continue to grow.

Dr Jenny Harries, the chief executive of the UKHSA, said: “Our latest analysis shows an encouraging early signal that people who contract the Omicron variant may be at a relatively lower risk of hospitalisation than those who contract other variants.

“Cases are currently very high in the UK, and even a relatively low proportion requiring hospitalisation could result in a significant number of people becoming seriously ill.” (BBC)

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