People infected with Omicron 'up to 70% less likely to need hospital', UKHSA study shows

23 December 2021, 17:03 | Updated: 23 December 2021, 18:59

Omicron patients are much less likely to require hospital treatment than previous Covid strains, a new study shows
Omicron patients are much less likely to require hospital treatment than previous Covid strains, a new study shows. Picture: Alamy

By Patrick Grafton-Green

People with Omicron are up to 70% less likely to go to hospital compared to previous Covid strains, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has said.

The major new analysis shows that people are between 50 and 70% less likely to need hospital care.

People are also between 31 and 45% less likely to go to A&E.

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Ten weeks after receiving the booster, protection against symptomatic disease drops by between 15 and 25%, the study also shows.

However, protection is likely to be far more robust against severe disease.

The UKHSA described the findings as "encouraging" but warned Omicron could still lead to a high number of hospital admissions.

The results are largely based on people aged under 40, with the highest case rates of Omicron currently among younger people.

The variant is less common in those aged over 60 and the UKHSA, formerly Public Health England, says further analysis will be needed.

Dr Jenny Harries, the chief executive of the UKHSA, 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.

"Cases are currently very high in the UK, and even a relatively low proportion requiring hospitalisation could result in a significant number of people becoming seriously ill."

Health Secretary Sajid Javid said: "This new UKHSA data on Omicron is promising - while two doses of the vaccine aren't enough, we know boosters offer significant protection against the variant and early evidence suggests this strain may be less severe than Delta.

"However, cases of the variant continue to rise at an extraordinary rate - already surpassing the record daily number in the pandemic. Hospital admissions are increasing, and we cannot risk the NHS being overwhelmed."

Other studies from around the world have also suggested Omicron is milder than previous strains.

Earlier this week, research from Imperial College London indicated people with PCR-confirmed Omicron are 15 to 20% less likely to need admission to hospital, and 40 to 45% less likely to require a stay of one night or more.

Scientists in a separate Scotland-wide study called Early Pandemic Evaluation and Enhanced Surveillance of Covid-19 have said the variant is associated with a two-thirds reduction in the risk of hospitalisation compared with Delta.

It comes as the Government confirmed a further 119,789 coronavirus cases were recorded in the UK as of 9am on Thursday, a new record for daily reported cases.

A further 147 people had died within 28 days of testing positive.

Meanwhile, new figures show more than one million people are estimated to have had coronavirus in the last week in another UK record.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said 1.4 million people are estimated to have had the virus in the week up to December 16.

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