It looks like the United Kingdom has passed the peak of the latest wave of COVID-19 caused by Omicron, which is a good sign that the highly spreadable variant’s impact may be limited, even if intense. It also makes people optimistic that the pandemic may be coming to an end.
Scientists say that data from the United Kingdom shows that the Omicron wave is following the same pattern as in South Africa, where cases rose quickly over the course of a few weeks, then fell back down again. This is good news for countries that are behind the UK in the wave, like the US.
For more than a week, the seven-day average for new cases of COVID-19 in the U.K. has been dropping. On Tuesday, it was the first time since November when that average fell below that of 14 days. The Wall Street Journal looked at official data. Both show that caseloads are going down.
The rate at which new COVID-19 hospitalizations are rising has also slowed down. In England, especially London, where the Omicron wave hit first, new COVID-19 hospitalizations are falling. When Omicron was found in the United Kingdom on Nov. 27, it was only the first time.
Scientists, on the other hand, say that caseloads and hospital admissions could change again as people mix more after the holidays and the start of the new school year.
After the Omicron wave, hospital admissions in England started to go down, but they were still very high at the time.
It’s been a while since the British experience, but it has added to the belief that Omicron is less dangerous than other viruses. This is especially true in places like the United Kingdom, where the rate of older people getting the vaccine is very high.
Trends are making people think that the worst of Omicron, and maybe even the whole pandemic, is going away. As of Jan. 26, the limited public health restrictions that were put in place to keep Omicron under control will no longer be in place. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said that he won’t be keeping them in place after that date, when they are supposed to end.
The peak of COVID admissions at Tom Wingfield’s hospital may be in the next week or so. He is an infectious-diseases doctor in Liverpool, England. He said, “We seem to be turning a corner now.” In his district, he expects more admissions because case rates are rising in older and more vulnerable groups.
Every day for seven days, 138,268 people in the U.K. have been reported as having swine flu. That’s down from 138,269 the previous day and the third day in a row, which means the epidemic is coming to an end. The last time the 14-day average was higher than the seven-day average was on Nov. 12, when it was Nov. 12 again.
Another way to tell if an outbreak is growing or going away is how many tests come back positive. This has also changed. The University of Oxford’s Our World in Data project says that 8.8% of people were positive on Jan. 11. That’s about twice the rate it was before Omicron was found, but it’s not as high as the 11 percent rate that was recorded on January 4.
Hospital admissions in England have also started to go down after they rose quickly as the Omicron wave started late last year. English admissions fell 1% from a week earlier, to 14,098, according to official data. That’s less than a week’s worth of admissions, but it’s still a lot. That’s in contrast to week-to-week increases that topped 70% at the start of the year.
Admissions in London, where Omicron started earlier than in other parts of the country, were down 18 percent in the seven days before Jan. 11, compared to the same time last year, data showed.
With COVID-19, the number of people who have died is going up. They usually don’t happen quickly enough to keep up with the number of people who get sick. People died on average every day for seven days thru Thursday, up 70% from the week before. As of January 2021, there were more than 1,200 deaths a day.
Data from this week may not be complete because of holidays and changes made to how UK tests are done. People who get a positive result on a rapid antigen test don’t have to also get a confirmation PCR test, which may be lowering the number of people who report getting sick.
Still, other data shows the same thing. A data set from the Office for National Statistics, for example, says that more than 7 percent of the people in England had COVID-19 in the week ending Jan. 6. That’s 3.7 million people. That’s up from 6.4% the week before, but the rate of growth is slowing down. Cases in London, where the Omicron outbreak in the United Kingdom first started, may have dropped at the same time, according to the ONS.
As in the US, where hospitalizations have hit a record high, the impact of Omicron on hospitals in the United Kingdom has been smaller than in previous outbreaks. English hospital admissions in January last year reached 34,000, with more than 3,800 admissions each day.
It was Thursday, and there were 16,716 people in English-speaking hospitals with COVID-19. There are about 2,000 people in the United Kingdom who are hospitalized every day. Omicron has made a big difference in the number of people who are very sick in the hospital. It was Thursday, and there were 666 people in mechanical ventilation beds in England. That’s 13% less than a week ago, and less than a fifth of the maximum occupancy of 3,736 that was reached in January 2021.
More than 90% of people over 50 who had been vaccinated had a third dose by January 6. This is because of a campaign to get people who have been vaccinated three times to get a fourth dose. Experts in the U.K. say that this variant is also linked to milder disease in general, which may be because it doesn’t seem to be able to get into the lungs like earlier variants.
It isn’t known why the Omicron wave seems to peak so quickly, compared to waves that are caused by other types of waves.
He is a professor of infectious-disease epidemiology at the University of Edinburgh. Mark Woolhouse said there could be a lot of different reasons. Because it spreads so quickly, it might run out of hosts faster. The spread of the disease could also have been slowed down by people working from home and taking other steps to keep it from spreading to other people.
A third reason, which he said he likes, is that Omicron reproduces so quickly. In epidemiological models, a shorter time between each doubling of infections makes the epidemic wave shorter.
The first case of the variant was found by scientists in South Africa in the first half of November. A little over a month later, the number of cases reached a new high of 23,000 a day. As December came to a close, caseloads began to slow down. By January 11, they were back to around 7,000 a day, Our World in Data says. As of Dec. 31, the South African government said that cases and hospital admissions were down, which they said was proof that it had passed the peak.