With COVID Spike In U.K., Many Patients Not On Ventilators
UK Pharmacies Report Lateral Flow Test Shortage PRESTON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 30: People wear Covid-19 protection face masks as they shop in the rain shop on December 30, 2021 in Preston, England. Covid Lateral flow tests are unavailable to order from the government website for the second day and pharmacies are reporting shortages and low stock. As New Year celebrations approach it is being reported that PCR Covid-19 tests are also in short supply. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images) Christopher Furlong / Staff
Christopher Furlong/Staff/Getty Images

The United Kingdom has experienced its largest spike in COVID-19 cases due to the Omicron variant, but the number of individuals who have needed serious care in the hospital hasn’t increased in a drastic way.

The Wall Street Journal reported: 

Doctors say Omicron is making fewer people seriously sick and the severe respiratory problems that were hallmarks of earlier waves of Covid-19 aren’t so prevalent this time around. The change reflects differences in how the variant attacks the body, booster shots shielding the most vulnerable against the severest aspects of the disease, and better treatments that forestall Covid-19’s progression.

The news should be encouraging to countries around the world as they deal with the Omicron variant that has proven to be highly contagious, although is believed to be less severe than previous variants. 

“We’re waiting for the bombs to fall and they haven’t yet fallen,” Mervyn Singer, an intensive-care consultant at University College London Hospitals, said, per the Journal. “We should by now be seeing a big surge in cases. At the moment we’re not seeing that. I’m quietly confident that Omicron won’t be so bad.”

Physicians note that medical workers and hospitals are still experiencing a hefty burden. The number of people needing intensive care is not high, but “admissions to regular hospital care are increasing fast,” the Journal noted. This has put a level of stress on the healthcare industry that is trying to manage dealing with medical workers who are out sick because they have gotten Omicron.

There is also a concern that people needing intense care at the hospitals could increase if the variant starts to more negatively impact the vulnerable and older members of the population. 

“Around 60% of those in intensive-care units are unvaccinated, data from mid-December show, despite accounting for only 9% of the adult population last month, and doctors say the remainder tend to be people who have been vaccinated but suffer from serious underlying conditions that are aggravated by Covid-19,” the Journal reported. 

“The seven-day average of newly reported Covid-19 cases in the U.K. hit 181,733 Thursday, up 30% on a week earlier,” it added. “Daily case counts may underestimate the true scale of the current wave, public-health officials say. The Office for National Statistics estimates that 3.7 million people in the U.K., or 5.6% of the population, may have had Covid-19 in the week ended Dec. 31.”

Hospitalizations have gone up, too, but daily entries and the total number of people in hospitals are reportedly still only a fraction of what was experienced in previous waves of the virus.

The Journal included the numbers: 

The most up-to-date data from England puts average daily admissions at 2,000 in the seven days through Tuesday, around half the level they reached in January 2021, the deadliest phase of the pandemic in Britain. As of Thursday, there were around 16,058 people in hospitals with Covid-19. That is the most since February last year but well below the peak of 34,000 in mid-January.

The need for ventilation is also much lower for individuals than it has previously been for those who contract the virus in the country, a main way many have historically tracked the intensity and danger of COVID-19.

The Journal noted:

There were 762 Covid-19 cases in mechanical ventilation beds in English hospitals as of Thursday. That is fewer than at the start of November and a fraction of the 3,700 reached during the previous winter wave, when average daily cases peaked at around 60,000.

According to U.K. government data, deaths within 28 days of a positive test by date reported were 229 on Friday. On January 19th, 2021, that number was 1,359.

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