Omicron is ‘not the same disease’ as previous Covid variants, Oxford University scientist says.
- Boris Johnson, the British prime minister, said on Monday that no further Covid-19 limitations would be imposed on England before the end of the year.
- Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland have already implemented new measures to combat the omicron variant's spread.
- However, England has maintained its present stay-at-home instructions and boosted mask wearing.
- Since the epidemic began in early 2020, the United Kingdom has reported more than 12.4 million infections — with another 129,471 on Tuesday — and at least 148,488 deaths.
LONDON, UK — The horrific spectacles observed in prior Covid-19 waves are "now history," according to John Bell, a regius professor of medicine at the University of Oxford and the UK government's life sciences advisor.
On Tuesday, Bell spoke to BBC Radio 4 about data from the United Kingdom, where cases are shattering records and hospital admissions are at their highest since March. He claims that vaccination rates in intensive care units are still "very, very low."
"The incidence of serious disease and death from this disease [Covid] has essentially remained unchanged since we all got vaccinated and that’s really important to remember,” he told the BBC.
"I believe we should be reassured that the horrible pictures we saw a year ago — critical care units being filled, many of people dying early — that is now history in my opinion, and I think that's going to continue."
"The sickness appears to be less severe, and many people spend a reasonably brief time in hospital," he said of the novel omicron form. They don't require high-flow oxygen, the typical stay is three days, and this is not the same sickness we were seeing a year ago."
A United Kingdom's government study published Thursday said that people are far less likely to be admitted to the hospital with the Covid omicron variant than with the previous delta strain.
Individuals with omicron are projected to be between 31 percent and 45 percent less likely to visit emergency rooms than those with delta, and 50 percent to 70 percent less likely to require hospital admission, according to the United Kingdom's Health Security Agency.
The analysis is “preliminary and highly uncertain” owing to the small numbers of omicron cases currently in hospitals, but it aligns with comparable findings from South African scientists and research teams at Imperial College London and the University of Edinburgh.
Despite the fact that the number of daily deaths is still low, and preliminary research suggests that the omicron variant is not as dangerous as other Covid strains, health experts have repeatedly warned that the sheer number of infections could result in rising fatalities and an overburdened health-care system.
Even if omicron proves to be "milder" than other strains, the potential caseload in the United Kingdom, where the virus is rampant, could double or triple the number of people needing hospitalisation, according to Danny Altmann, professor of immunology at Imperial College London, who told CNBC via email last week.
"At a time when NHS (National Health Service) is a) greatly depleted by omicron and b) massively stressed and weary after two hard years on the frontline, this would be unacceptable," he said, adding that "no green shoots yet" exist.
Boris Johnson, the British prime minister, said on Monday that no further Covid-19 limitations would be imposed on England before the end of the year.
England has stuck with current stay-at-home directives and enhanced mask-wearing, while Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland have already begun new limitations to limit the spread of the omicron variant.
Johnson's lack of action on Monday was "probably fine," according to Bell, who also remarked that people's behaviour in England has evolved, with many being "quite responsible." In London, hospital admissions are still below 400 per day, which the government considers a critical barrier.
The United Kingdom has reported more than 12.4 million illnesses — including another 129,471 on Tuesday — and at least 148,488 deaths since the pandemic began in early 2020, according to data complied by Johns Hopkins University.