Omicron IS milder as bombshell studies show hospitalisation risk is HALVED

BRITS infected with Omicron are around 50 per cent less likely to end up in hospital, new findings suggest.

The new study offers another glimmer of hope as Boris Johnson pours over make-or-break data today, after warning of further restrictions after Christmas.


Ministers have been waiting for more real world data on hospitalisations to fully evaluate the threat posed by the new variant.

It comes as daily Covid cases hit a new record high today with 106, 122 Brits testing positive – and 13,581 new Omicron infections reported.

Tonight, Professor Neil Ferguson – dubbed Prof Lockdown – told journalists that his team's new findings do suggest the new strain is "moderately less severe".

He said vaccines remain our best defence against Covid, while those who have previously been infected will also have some immunity.

Their findings showed Brits who have had two doses have substantially reduced risk of hospitalisation compared to those who were unvaccinated and infected with Delta.

His colleague Prof Azra Ghani, of Imperial College London, added that their findings back up the idea that booster jabs are the best weapon we have in our arsenal to tackle Covid.

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"With the addition of the booster dose, vaccines continue to offer the best protection against infection and hospitalisation," Prof Ghani said.

It comes as the UK today hit the major milestone of 30million booster jabs in a record-breaking week for jabs.

🔵 Read our Covid-19 live blog for the latest updates

Over 56 per cent of all adults have now had their Covid booster, with 968,665 third doses given today.

As the Government urges all adults to Get Boosted Now, we are urging you to sign up to join The Sun's Jabs Army, to help turbocharge the rollout.

Yesterday, Boris Johnson gave the go-ahead for Christmas celebrations, ruling out any tougher restrictions this side of the festive break.

In another boost, new guidance issued today slashed the 10-day isolation period for those testing positive with Covid to just seven days, releasing hundreds of thousands of Brits in time for Christmas.

But the Prime Minister warned he could still take action before the New Year if the data shows a worsening picture – amid growing fears of a circuit-breaker style lockdown.

Among the data ministers are waiting for, is a major report from the UK Health Security Agency.

It's expected in the next few days, and will give the first real-world data on the true scale of the threat Omicron poses.

In the meantime, real-world studies from South Africa – where Omicron was first detected – show people who catch the strain are 80 per cent less likely to be hospitalised than those infected with Delta.

And the findings from Imperial College echo that cause for hope.

'STILL EARLY DAYS'

The data set included 56,000 cases of Omicron and 269,000 cases of Delta and was taken from PCR tests from 1-14 December.

The research team led by Prof Ferguson found those testing positive with Omicron are 15-20 percent less likely to need hospital care.

And they are 40-45 per cent less likely to end up spending a night or more as an inpatient.

Half the level of severity means cases would have to rise twice as high to reach the same level of hospital admissions, compared with Delta.

But Prof Lockdown urged caution, telling reporters "it's still early days" and adding we should see more data on hospitalisations next week.

He stressed the reduction in severity of disease must be balanced against the greater risk of getting infected with Omicron in the first place.

"Our analysis shows evidence of a moderate reduction in the risk of hospitalisation associated with the Omicron variant compared with the Delta variant," Prof Ferguson said.

"However, this appears to be offset by the reduced efficacy of vaccines against infection with the Omicron variant.

"Given the high transmissibility of the Omicron virus, there remains the potential for health services to face increasing demand in Omicron cases continue to grow at the rate that has been seen in recent weeks."

Prof Ferguson added: “We see that even if you do become a case but you're vaccinated, you have a lower risk of being hospitalised than if you're unvaccinated. 

“If you’re infected with Delta after two doses of the Pfizer vaccine, you have a certain risk of being hospitalised – and we think the risk is about the same if you're infected with Omicron.

“We think Omicron is less severe but the reason your risk is the same is because the vaccines are slightly less effective, which is what we expected.”

We have more time to get more people boosted, we can't waste a moment of it

Earlier today, a Scottish study showed that Brits who are doubly vaccinated are two-thirds less likely to end up in hospital.

The EAVE II study, carried out at Edinburgh University, also showed the booster jab slashes risk of infection by 57 per cent.

Commenting on the findings, Prof James Naismith of the University of Oxford, said they indicate Omicron is "milder for more people".

He said: "In my view, there is now solid reason to favour a more optimistic outcome of Omicron in the UK than was feared.

"The best news in the study is the observation that the booster is highly effective at reducing serious illness from Omicron.

"Put crudely we have more time to get more people boosted, we can't waste a moment of it.

"Everything we can do as individuals to slow spread gives us more time."

But he cautioned, like Prof Ferguson, that while a two thirds reduction in hospitalisation risk is significant, it won't take much to overwhelm the NHS.

"Omicron can still cause severe illness in the doubly vaccinated," he added.

"Thus if Omicron continues to double every few days, it could generate many more hospitalisations than Delta from the double vaccinated population."

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