Published On: Thu, Dec 30th, 2021

Omicron ‘not same disease’ as earlier Covid waves: UK scientist

London: The fast-spreading Omicron variant is “not the same disease we were seeing a year ago” and high Covid death rates in the UK are “now history”, according to John Bell, regius professor of medicine at the Oxford University.

Masks, vaccine card mandates will make no difference

Bell, who is also the government’s life sciences adviser, said that although hospital admissions had increased in recent weeks as Omicron spreads through the population, the disease “appears to be less severe and many people spend a relatively short time in hospital”, reports The Guardian.

Fewer patients were needing high-flow oxygen and the average length of stay was down to three days, he said.

“The horrific scenes that we saw a year ago of intensive care units being full, lots of people dying prematurely, that is now history, in my view, and I think we should be reassured that that’s likely to continue,” Bell told the BBC.

Several scientists have criticised the government’s decision not to introduce further Covid restrictions in England before New Year’s Eve, with some describing it as “the greatest divergence between scientific advice and legislation” since the start of the pandemic, the report said.

They have expressed concern that while the Omicron variant appears to be milder, it is highly transmissible, meaning hospital numbers and deaths could rise rapidly without intervention, it added.

The NHS Providers chief executive, Chris Hopson, said it was still unclear what would happen when infection rates in older people started to rise.

“We have had a lot of intergenerational mixing over Christmas, so we all are still waiting to see, are we going to see a significant number of increases in terms of the number of patients coming into hospital with serious Omicron-related disease,” Hopson was quoted as saying by the BBC.

on the other hand, a US-based doctor claimed that the fast-spreading Omicron variant is “nothing more than a seasonal cold virus” and there is little we can do to stop this virus from infecting people.

Afshine Emrani, MD, who holds a Fellowship in the American College of Cardiology (FACC) from the US, said that people who are vaccinated have a much lower chance of dying or getting hospitalised. But there is little it can be done to stop this virus from infecting over 80 per cent of the population, he said.

“Masks, vaccine card mandates will make no difference,” Emrani said in a tweet.

“Vaccinated people still get infected and pass the virus to others,” he added.

He also mentioned that soon the US will have two million positive cases a day for weeks, after which the numbers will drop dramatically.

“The biggest threat in my opinion remains in over-reaction and over-reach by government agencies, causing panic, providing misinformation, leading to closures that hurt those most vulnerable among us,” Emrani said.

Meanwhile, a team of experts in Singapore has warned that the Omicron variant is likely to soon replace the Delta strain globally, as countries after countries have reported a record surge in Covid cases.

The warning comes as the World Health Organisation (WHO) has cautioned that the more transmissible Omicron together with the currently circulating Delta variants might lead to “a tsunami of cases,” putting immense pressure on national health systems.

In India, the Omicron infection tally has climbed to 961, of which 320 patients have been discharged from hospitals.

A Covid-19 tracker, developed by the UK’s University of Cambridge, has predicted that India may soon see an intense but short-lived virus wave “within days”, even as the highly transmissible Omicron variant of Covid is spreading like wildfire in the country.


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