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Omicron: Ventilator bed occupancy keeps decreasing despite surge in Covid infections

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Despite another record of 117,000 daily Covid cases reported on December 28 in the UK, it appears only 9.88 percent of those who are hospitalised due to Covid require a ventilator bed. At the worst point of the pandemic in 2020, more than 15 percent of Covid patients needed a ventilator, but the record was set in July 2021 with nearly 18 percent.

The new figures could justify the studies claiming that Omicron symptoms are milder.

The UK Health Security Agency study concluded that people with the variant are 50 to 70 percent less likely to go to the hospital.

Other scientists suggest a more cautious approach to Omicron, given the variant is still in its early stages.

Azeem Majeed, professor and department head of primary care and public health at Imperial College, said in a statement: “I think it’s too early to say the Omicron wave is not that serious because the case numbers are so high we probably need to wait a few weeks as it spreads to older age groups.

“Most people are being quite optimistic about this but probably a bit too premature.

“Let’s see how we are in three or four weeks time.”

Professor Majeed added: “Because vaccination rates are so high now, the vaccines will suppress the symptoms.

“So you will expect people to have milder infections than previously.

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“So people are being picked up accidentally in the usual screening process.

“It means you have to be very careful because this variant does spread more easily than other variants, as lots of people will come in who aren’t suspected to have Omicron initially, and these people may then spread it onto either staff or other patients.”

Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers, even suggested the worst scenario for the health system might not be too many patients but being short-staffed.

He said: “Many chief executives are saying that, on current evidence, they think Omicron related staff absences may be a greater challenge than the number of Omicron related severely ill patients they have to treat.”

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Despite self-isolation being reduced to seven days from ten, absences are still rising dramatically within the NHS as more staff test positive.

Around 38 percent of NHS employees were absent in the week up to December 23.

As of December 22, 8,240 patients were hospitalised for Covid in the UK — far less than the 39,254 hospitalisations reported in January 2021.



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