Christmas shoppers in London on December 23, 2021.
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A British government study published Thursday found that people are much less likely to be hospitalized than the previous Delta breed.
The UK’s Health Security Agency said it is estimated that individuals with omicron are 31% to 45% less likely to go to the emergency room than those with delta, and 50-70% less likely to be hospitalized.
The UK Health Service said the analysis was “preliminary and highly uncertain” due to the small number of omicron cases currently in hospital, the inability to effectively measure all previous infections and the limited prevalence of the new variant among older age groups.
The findings are based on 132 people who were hospitalized or taken from the emergency room. Of these, 17 received a booster, 74 received two vaccines and 27 were not vaccinated. Eight people received a single injection and the vaccination status of 6 people was unknown.
The study said 14 people died within 28 days of being diagnosed with Omicron, ranging in age from 52 to 96.
UKHSA chief executive Jenny Harris said in a statement: “Our recent analysis shows an encouraging early sign that people who contract the Omicron variant have a relatively lower risk of hospitalization than those who receive the other variants.”
“However, it should be noted that this is early data and more research is needed to confirm these findings.”
The preliminary data are consistent with comparable findings from South African scientists and research teams at Imperial College London and the University of Edinburgh.
Research published Tuesday by South Africa’s National Institute of Infectious Diseases found that people with oomicrons were 80% less likely to be sent to hospital than other variables. It also found a 70% reduced risk of serious illness in individuals who were not hospitalized.
The authors of the non-peer-reviewed study cautioned that this could be due to higher immunity in the population, either from a previous infection or vaccination. South African health officials also said the data should not be extrapolated to all countries.
In Scotland, researchers found that Omicron is two-thirds less likely to need hospitalization than Delta, and they also stressed the importance of a booster dose.
It’s early days, but the preliminary results offer hope that the human and economic toll on highly mutated species will not be as dire as initially feared. Omicron has spread like wildfire, leading to the re-imposition of restrictions in some countries as authorities rush to contain them.
Due to the high rate of omicron transmission, the risk of overburdening health systems during the winter period is still very high, but the high number of infections is likely to cause more people to require hospital care.
Omicron was first identified in South Africa in November and described by the World Health Organization as a “different type of concern”. The US has now reported an average of more than 160,000 new daily infections, while the UK reported more than 100,000 cases on Thursday for the second day in a row.
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