Omicron lockdown lifeline as data hints cases may have peaked and now ‘stabilised’ in UK

Sadiq Khan warns 'things only going to get worse' with Omicron

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After weeks cof causing anxiety for both scientists and the public over its relentless growth, the first signs of an Omicron slowdown are said to have begun. Although hospital admissions are still rising, some experts believe cases in the UK may have peaked as they have been largely unchanged in six days. Yesterday, 90,629 cases were reported, a fall of 1,115 from the previous day – which may indicate a turn in the tide.

Case rates are also said to be reassuringly low in areas with high vaccination – showing the impact of the booster campaign.

The number of people ending up in hospital after testing positive for Covid has fallen to one of the lowest points in the entire pandemic, with just 1.95 per cent being admitted.

The only time it was lower was when it hit 1.8 for a day in mid-July. Last December, it was as high as 12 per cent.

It is still too early to call off the possibility of a lockdown, but experts are said to have been reassured.

Prof James Naismith, the director of the Rosalind Franklin Institute, said: “We know that omicron per 1,000 infections will cause many fewer deaths and hospitalisations than the alpha wave.

“It is very likely due to the immunity from boosters, vaccines and previous infection that the number of severe disease outcomes per 1,000 infections will be lower than delta.

“What we don’t know is whether there are so many cases that even with a lower rate of severe disease per 1,000 infections, we still end up in trouble.”

London is the odd case out – there has been an uptick in the hospital case ratio since December 8.

Doctors and NHS trust leaders have complained frequently in recent days that the vast majority of hospitalised Covid patients in London are unvaccinated.

Paul Hunter, a professor in medicine at the University of East Anglia, said: “This is not entirely an epidemic of the unvaccinated, but certainly low vaccination rates in some areas are helping drive the epidemic in several areas both in infections in the unvaccinated but also high infection rates causing breakthrough infections in vaccinated.

“Certainly much of the pressure of severe disease on the health service comes from infection in the unvaccinated.”

Carl Heneghan, a professor of evidence-based medicine at the University of Oxford said cases may have “peaked” on December 15.

He added: “I think cases will go up again, but this number looks like it has stabilised. We should have a better idea by Thursday.”

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It is clear now that the UK Health Security Agency model suggesting that omicron cases were doubling every two days has not come to pass.

It comes as Prime Minister Boris Johnson last night ruled out introducing new Covid rules before Christmas saying the data currently did not support extra measures.

He said: “In view of the continuing uncertainty about several things – the severity of Omicron, uncertainty about the hospitalisation rate or the impact of the vaccine rollout or the boosters, we don’t think today that there is enough evidence to justify any tougher measures before Christmas,” he said in a televised message.

“Naturally we can’t rule out any further measures after Christmas – and we’re going to keep a constant eye on the data, and we’ll do whatever it takes to protect public health.”

And Mr Johnson could be set to rule out further restrictions if hospitalisation remain under control.

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