Hopes soar for light at end of Covid tunnel – early Omicron data ‘very encouraging’

Omicron: 10,059 confirmed new cases of variant

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Professor Francois Balloux, director of the University College London Genetics Institute, said the proportion of hospitalisation and deaths appear to be lower than previous Covid waves. The expert made the comments as new analysis suggested hospitalisation rates in South Africa may have dropped by up to 91 percent compared to the previous spike, while the death rate may have plunged by two-thirds.

Prof Balloux told New York Magazine: “Well, I think we’re starting to have good data from South Africa.

“And it looks like the proportion of people hospitalised, given infection, is much lower than in previous waves.

“Some estimates are as optimistic as 90 percent lower.

“It looks like, given hospitalization, people are less likely to die, or are less likely to die by respective age groups — a two-thirds reduction of death from infection compared to previous waves.

“There could be all sorts of reasons why, but that is quite spectacular.

“If you assume that these numbers are correct, it would mean a 30-times reduction in fatality relative to previous waves, which is really something.

“That brings us down to seasonal flu.”

However, Prof Balloux warned it is too early to say if this will be the case for other countries such as the UK.

“There could be all sorts of reasons why, but that is quite spectacular.

“If you assume that these numbers are correct, it would mean a 30-times reduction in fatality relative to previous waves, which is really something.

“That brings us down to seasonal flu.”

However, Prof Balloux warned it is too early to say if this will be the case for other countries such as the UK.

His comments come as coronavirus cases are surging in Britain as fears mount of another lockdown.

Prof Balloux said: “Well, the problem is, it’s really difficult to project.

“I think the South African experience, for instance, would project fairly well in other lower-middle-income countries that have relatively similar demographies, similar rates of vaccination.

“And they do have a very high rate of protection there — essentially everyone there has been exposed.

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“But that is also the case around other places in the world.

“I think it can probably be safe to extrapolate South African data to other parts of Africa, some parts of Asia, and some parts of South America.

“But I’m not sure, at this stage, what it might tell us about the UK and US prospects.”

Prof Balloux’s comments come as a graphic by the Finanical Times comparing the impact of the Delta and Omicron waves on London hospitals suggests more people are now only incidentally testing positive after being admitted for other conditions.

Meanwhile, Sajid Javid today refused to rule out new restrictions before Christmas in response to Omicron.

Asked on The Andrew Marr Show on BBC One whether he could rule it out, the Health Secretary said: “We are assessing the situation, it’s very fast-moving. We’ve seen with Omicron there’s a lot that we still don’t know about Omicron.

“That’s the truth of the matter. The reality is there’s a lot of uncertainty.”.

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