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Government Urged To Be Cautious Over "Good News" Suggesting Omicron Is Milder

London Omicron

3 min read

A leading health figure has urged the government to be cautious with studies published yesterday suggesting that Omicron may be milder than previous Covid variants.

Chris Hopson, CEO of NHS Providers, on Thursday said the data was still incomplete and that trying to predict the impact of the new variant was like trying to predict a football game "when you're only a third of the way through".

"There is some good news there but we need to recognise that these are very small numbers in terms of what's being looked at," Hopson told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

On Wednesday, studies published in England found that Omicron, which was first found in South Africa, led to milder illness compared to previous variants of Covid-19.

Research published by Imperial College London found that you are around 40% less likely to end up in hospital with Omicron compared with the Delta variant, while a study conducted by Edinburgh University suggested that you are 65% less likely. Research in South Africa has produced similar findings.

Hopson said the early findings contained "good news" but that it was too early to draw firm conclusions, pointing to gaps in the research carried out in the UK.

"If you look at the Scotland study, it hasn't really looked at the impact on older people," he said.

"We know there is a lag between people testing positive and coming in hospital, and we also know it will take time to move from what is predomintantly young people catching the variant, and it reaching older people, so there's still a lot of information we don't have.

"But the stuff that came out yesterday had good news in it."

Boris Johnson has confirmed that there would be not be any new Covid restrictions in England before Christmas day, saying in an address to the nation that there was not enough evidence to justify introducing more measures.

The Prime Mininister said “people can go ahead with their Christmas plans”, however he added “the situation remains extremely difficult”.

Johnson and his Cabinet on Tuesday decided against bringing in new restrictions immediately, arguing that they first wanted to see more data on the impact of Omicron.

In Tuesday's TV address Johnson said it was impossible to rule out further measures, and that the government would be keeping a "constant eye" on the data. 

“But in view of the continuing uncertainty about several things – the severity of Omicron, uncertainty about the hospitalisation rate or the impact of the vaccine rollout or the boosters, we don’t think today that there is enough evidence to justify any tougher measures before Christmas,” he continued. 

He also urged everyone to "exercise caution, to keep protecting yourselves and your loved ones, especially the vulnerable”, by wearing a mask indoors when required, making sure rooms are well-ventilated, and to take a test before you visit elderly relatives.

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