Why a UK Omicron wave is harmful – even when we see principally gentle instances | Coronavirus

With the booster programme at full tilt throughout the UK, immunity towards Covid is rising – so it’s maybe not shocking that the priority proven by specialists 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’s thought the jabs nonetheless provide good safety towards extreme illness – notably after a booster. And higher ranges of immunity means a decrease ratio of hospitalisations to instances – one thing we’ve seen earlier than within the UK, the place about 22% of instances in these aged 65 and older ended up in hospital in early 2021, when Alpha was dominant however few had obtained a vaccine, in contrast with about 6% after the vaccine rollout was properly beneath approach.

In different phrases, even when the illness brought on by Omicron will not be inherently much less extreme than earlier variants – one thing that continues to be unclear – most individuals will expertise solely gentle signs due to their immune response both from vaccination, prior an infection or each.

However this isn’t about people. That is in regards to 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 Well being Safety Company (UKHSA), noting infections may attain 1m a day by the top of the month.

Whereas it’s not but clear what the ratio of hospitalisations to instances will likely be with Omicron, no vaccine provides 100% safety, which 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 really massive quantity remains to be a big quantity.

The purpose was made final week by Hopkins after information was launched by the UKHSA exhibiting two doses of a Covid vaccine supplied far much less safety towards symptomatic an infection with Omicron than Delta.

“The largest fear is that if we’ve very excessive numbers of individuals getting contaminated on the identical time, with the doubling charge that we’re seeing in the meanwhile, then it is going to discover all these individuals who had much less immune responses, or these individuals who have but to get their booster dose, or haven’t been vaccinated but, remembering there are nonetheless vital numbers of individuals within the inhabitants – greater than 5 million in England – who haven’t but obtained a single dose of vaccine,” she advised journalists.

A big wave of Covid hospitalisations would, by itself, be an enormous drawback for the NHS however that’s not the one concern – as Prof Chris Whitty has identified, the NHS itself will likely be affected by Omicron by way of workers illness and isolation.

“So that you’re going to have each a discount in provide and a rise in demand within the well being service over a really quick time interval, and that actually is the rationale why we’re all taking this extraordinarily severely,” Whitty advised MPs on Thursday.

With the UK now breaking information day by day for the variety of reported instances, the query will not be whether or not hospitalisations will rise, however for the way lengthy can the NHS cope?

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