According to new modelling by the University of Warwick, the UK National Health Service can avoid becoming overwhelmed only if the Omicron variant turns out to be 5-10 times milder than Delta. However, if Omicron is even half as severe as Delta, hospitalisations in the UK could exceed what was witnessed at the peak of the second wave, the study says.
"Under these assumptions of no additional control (beyond Plan B), and even assuming omicron is just 10 per cent the severity of delta it is still highly likely that hospital admissions will peak above 1,500 per day," the authors of the study said. "If we assume that Omicron is as severe as Delta then admissions will be an order of magnitude larger, peaking at around 27,000 admissions."
A recent study from Scotland suggested that Omicron has a two-thirds less risk of hospitalisation as compared to Delta. A separate study by Imperial College London also suggested that PCR-confirmed Omicron infections were 15-20 per cent less likely to require hospitalisation. But Warwick authors have noted that assuming the Omicron is 100 per cent as severe as Delta represents a "reasonable worst-case".
If Omicron takes less time to become symptomatic than Delta, as is strongly suspected, it would radically alter their results for the better, the researchers said.
"If the generation time of Omicron was half that of Delta, once the model is recalibrated... this would approximately halve the predicted peak outbreak sizes", they said.
During the second wave of Covid, on January 18, the total number of cases was 34,336. As of Sunday, the UK had reported a total of 13,174,528 Covid-19 cases and 149,251 deaths.