Omicron: "A lot less patients in ICU's and shorter ICU spells"

Koen Pouwels, a Dutch epidemiologist working at Oxford University in England, hopes that the omicron variant will make patients less sick than its delta counterpart. "Omicron seems to multiply in the nose and mouth mainly, and not so much in the lungs, which could explain why is it less dangerous", he told VRT NWS.   

How will Belgium be impacted by omicron? Forecasts are currently being based on data from abroad. France saw a double number of new cases in 4 days' time, with over 200,000 new corona cases being reported yesterday. 

And what about the United Kingdom? "We are seeing record-breaking figures for new cases and new tests (the U.K. saw over 180,000 new cases in the past 24 hours), and there was even a shortage of corona tests. But relatively seen, there are a lot less patients ending up in intensive care units (ICU's) when compared to the delta variant. The time they are spending in ICU's is also shorter."  

Lab tests with animals meanwhile revealed that the omicron variant multiplies fast in the mouth and nose, but to a lesser extent in the lungs. This could explain why omicron is less dangerous, adds Pouwels. Moreover, the booster campaign can also have a positive impact.

But this doesn't mean that all concerns have gone. "Until now, we mainly saw younger people contracting omicron. The risk of being hospitalised is lower for them anyway. We need to bear in mind that many people are meeting during the Christmas holidays. These contacts also involve elderly people, who usually are more at risk. We need to wait for 10 to 15 days to see the real impact." 

The British government has decided to boost capacity in its hospitals to be able to receive more corona patients. Over 10,000 patients are staying in hospital at present, the highest number since March.  

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