Why a UK Omicron wave is dangerous – even if we see mostly mild cases | Coronavirus


With the booster programme at full tilt throughout the UK, immunity towards Covid is rising – so it is maybe not stunning that the priority proven by consultants over the steep rise in Omicron infections has left some bemused.

For whereas the brand new variant is believed to dodge Covid vaccines to a point, it is thought the jabs nonetheless provide good safety against severe disease – notably after a booster. And larger ranges of immunity means a decrease ratio of hospitalisations to cases – one thing we have seen earlier than within the UK, the place about 22% of cases in these aged 65 and older ended up in hospital in early 2021, when Alpha was dominant however few had acquired a vaccine, in contrast with about 6% after the vaccine rollout was nicely underneath means.

In different phrases, even if the illness attributable to Omicron is not inherently much less extreme than earlier variants – one thing that is still unclear – most individuals will expertise solely mild signs because of their immune response both from vaccination, prior an infection or each.

But this is not about people. This is concerning the inhabitants.

In most areas of the UK, Omicron infections are doubling extra rapidly than each two days, with Dr Susan Hopkins, chief medical adviser for the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), noting infections might attain 1m a day by the top of the month.

While it is not but clear what the ratio of hospitalisations to cases will likely be with Omicron, no vaccine gives 100% safety, that means a proportion of these contaminated will nonetheless find yourself in hospital, whereas many have but to obtain all of their doses of the jabs. And, as many experts have pointed out, even a small proportion of a very massive quantity is nonetheless a massive quantity.

The level was made final week by Hopkins after data was released by the UKHSA displaying two doses of a Covid vaccine provided far much less safety towards symptomatic an infection with Omicron than Delta.

“The biggest worry is that if we have very high numbers of people getting infected at the same time, with the doubling rate that we’re seeing at the moment, then it will find all those people who had less immune responses, or those people who have yet to get their booster dose, or have not been vaccinated yet, remembering there are still significant numbers of people in the population – more than 5 million in England – who have not yet received a single dose of vaccine,” she advised journalists.

A big wave of Covid hospitalisations would, by itself, be a huge downside for the NHS however that is not the one concern – as Prof Chris Whitty has identified, the NHS itself will likely be affected by Omicron by means of workers illness and isolation.

“So you’re going to have both a reduction in supply and an increase in demand in the health service over a very short time period, and that really is the reason why we’re all taking this extremely seriously,” Whitty told MPs on Thursday.

With the UK now breaking information each day for the variety of reported cases, the query is not whether or not hospitalisations will rise, however for a way lengthy can the NHS cope?

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