Two studies carried out in the UK and published on Wednesday show that infection from the Omicron coronavirus variant is less likely to lead to hospitalisation than infection from the Delta variant. This confirms reports from South Africa, where the variant was first detected.
The findings – one carried out in Scotland, the other in England – were welcomed by experts, who nonetheless urged caution and highlighted that the highly transmissible variant can still cause a dangerous rise in the number of cases (as is currently seen in the UK), Belga News Agency reports.
“This is good news but there is a nuance – these are early observations and the variant is very contagious,” said study co-author Jim McMenamin. The Scottish study examined cases in November and December and compared Omicron to Delta infections. The study showed that those infected with the Omicron variant are around 66% less likely to be hospitalised than those infected with the Delta variant. Furthermore, the study indicated that a booster dose offered a high degree of additional protection.
A second study in England observed a 20-25% reduction in all hospitalisations when infected with the Omicron variant rather than Delta. For less-severe hospitalisations of just one night, this rose to between 40% and 45% reduction.
“Although the reduced risk of hospitalisation from the Omicron variant is reassuring, the risk of infection remains extremely high,” warned Azra Ghani of Imperial College London, who co-authored the English study. Ghani reaffirmed the benefits that a booster dose has in protecting against infection and hospitalisation.
Both studies still need to be peer-reviewed but both corroborate early observations of the Omicron variant: namely, that it causes less severe illness but is more transmissible than the Delta variant.
In Belgium, a number of new measures were introduced at yesterday’s Consultative Committee. These focus in particular on indoor events, which are now no longer permitted at all. Although no further restrictions were imposed on the hospitality sector, there are already a number of tight measures in place.
Infections and hospitalisations in Belgium continue to go down, at the same time as numbers in many neighbouring countries (such as the UK) are rising quickly.