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People With Omicron Are 50-70% Less Likely To Be Hospitalised Than Other Covid Cases

A new study from the UK Health Security Agency shows people are much less likely to be admitted to hospital with the Omicron variant (Alamy)

3 min read

The UK’s public health body has said that people infected with the Omicron variant of Covid-19 are between 50 and 70% less likely to be admitted to hospital than those infected with other variants.

In a briefing on Thursday, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) also said an individual with Omicron is “estimated to be between 31 and 45% less likely to attend A&E” compared to the previous dominant mutation of the disease, known as Delta.

The news comes as a further 119,789 Covid-19 cases were recorded in the UK today, another new record-high during the pandemic, and a 53% increase in the last seven days. 

UKHSA reported that there had been 16,817 additional confirmed cases of Omicron coronavirus, but as of 20 December just,132 individuals with the variant have been admitted to or transferred from emergency departments.

Their analysis shows the risk of hospital admission is vastly reduced compared to a case of Delta, although today’s data excludes individuals with a confirmed previous infection of Covid-19.

The figure of 70% less likelihood to be admitted to hospital is preliminary, UKHSA said, and highly uncertain because of the small numbers of Omicron cases currently in hospital, but is broadly consistent with the studies published yesterday by Imperial College London and the University of Edinburgh.

The body also looked at the efficacy of the existing vaccines to deal with Covid, saying there is lower effectiveness for symptomatic Omicron disease.

“There is evidence that protection against symptomatic disease wanes after the second dose of vaccine, and then improves after the booster,” UKHSA said.

"But the latest data suggests this extra protection starts to wane more rapidly against Omicron than Delta, being about 15-25% lower from 10 weeks after the booster dose.”

They also backed up existing studies of the variant showing it carries an increased risk of transmission, adding: “Although early suggestions are that individuals may be less likely to require hospitalisation, many more people are likely to become infected.

“Even if a smaller proportion of these individuals require hospitalisation, these are still large numbers of people requiring hospital care and pressures on the NHS will increase.

“It is therefore vital that people continue to exercise caution in order to limit the transmission of the virus."

Dr Jenny Harries, UKHSA’s chief executive, 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.

“However, it should be noted both that this is early data and more research is required to confirm these findings.”

The health secretary Sajid Javid echoed her warnings, calling on people to get their booster jabs, as while today’s data is “promising”, hospital admissions are still increasing.

Earlier the Cabinet minister acknowledged staff absences due to Covid were adding to pressures on the NHS, but said the easing of self-isolation rules would help.

"The NHS workforce was already under pressure before Omicron came along,” he said.

“There is increased pressure in many workforces at the moment, especially if someone needs to isolate if they have a positive case.

"Some of the recent moves we have had, moving from 10-day to seven isolation if you take a test in the last two days, I think all of that will help."

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