Fewer London Covid patients needing hospital ventilation, suggesting omicron is milder

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Experts said the positive London data reflected wider evidence that omicron was leading to less severe outcomes for those infected.

“The lower rate of mechanical ventilation bed occupancy seems to be consistent across multiple European countries,” said Paul Hunter, professor of medicine at the University of East Anglia.

“There was also data from South Africa that showed that people admitted to hospital with omicron were still somewhat less likely to have a particularly bad outcome such as dying or being admitted to ITU [intensive therapy units].

“In terms of pressure on the NHS, a patient on an ITU bed takes up a lot more medical and nursing time than patients on an open ward. So the fact that MVB [mechanical ventilator beds] occupancy is not yet going up is certainly a hopeful sign.”

It comes as further data shows that Covid admissions to hospitals in London have not risen as fast as cases when accounting for the approximate week delay between infection and hospitalisation.

If the capital’s admissions had grown at the same pace as cases since omicron was first detected in the UK at the end of November they would now be five times higher – yet the capital’s hospitals are seeing three and half times the number of daily admissions at a week lag since Nov 27.

In actual terms, infections in the run-up to Christmas have been translating into around 385 admissions a day compared with 110 a day at the end of November. However, the current figure would have been closer to 550 if admissions had surged at the same pace as infections in London, the first English area to see omicron become the dominant Covid strain.

Cases also appear to have hit a peak in London, with the city’s daily rolling average decreasing since Dec 21, offering hope that admissions may follow suit. Although admission rates are increasing among all ages in London, they are still far off last winter’s peak, with rates among the age groups most likely to have a booster vaccine furthest away.

In absolute terms, admission rates are highest among the over-85s at 37 admissions per 100,000 each day since Boxing Day, compared with 12 per 100,000 for 65 to 84-year-olds and four per 100,000 for 18 to 64-year-olds.

Yet the admission rate for over-85s is still 40 per cent of the group’s highest daily figure last winter, while 18 to 64-year-olds – the age range with lowest uptake of booster jabs – have an admission rate closer to their previous winter peak, at half.

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