archive photo

Are we beating the models?

Models had predicted up to 125,000 daily Covid infections and up to 1,000 hospitalisations a day, but are people right in thinking we have escaped the omicron wave more unscathed?

Biostatistician Geert Molenberghs warns against unfair comparisons.  “In calm periods the real number of infections is 2 to 3 times higher than recorded cases (using PCR tests). When there is widespread circulation of the virus the actual number of cases is up to 5 times higher than recorded cases”. 

Over 100,000 actual cases could be a reality today. Test policies have been changed to ease pressure on GPs and test centres.  As a result, fewer cases are being identified. “The share of tests coming back positive is incredibly high: 30%.  Among symptomatics the figure is over half!” says Molenberghs.

Models had predicted that the omicron wave would peak around now.  Molenberghs says the exact point is hard to forecast, but he believes it could be between now and the end of the month.

Figures could be impacted by the return to school but it’s hard to say by how much.

At present daily hospitalisations are around 200, while models predicted figures between 400 and 1,000 a day.

“The figures haven’t exploded” says Molenberghs “though recent day figures are edging higher”.

The biostatistician points to the situation abroad where omicron struck earlier. 

“In the UK there was a stable increase in hospitalisations followed by a surge from Christmas onwards.  Today hospital figures in the UK are falling”.

In Spain, Portugal and France hospital figures are still on the rise too. In the US hospitalisations increased ten-fold through omicron, but Molenberghs points to the lower base in the US as the delta wave had passed earlier.

Omicron variant is also putting less pressure on critical care. Virologist Steven Van Gucht points to greater immunity through vaccination and previous infections and the omicron variant that makes people less unwell.  Molenberghs notes it’s the delta variant that is still mostly responsible for people ending up in ICUs.      

Top stories