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Early studies suggest Omicron variant is milder

Early evidence suggests fewer people are needing hospital treatment than with other variants – with estimates ranging from a 30% to a 70% reduction.

But the concern remains that even if Omicron is milder, the sheer number of cases could overwhelm hospitals.

More than 100,000 cases have been reported in the UK in a single day for the first time.

The study in Scotland has been tracking coronavirus and the number of people ending up in hospital.

It said that if Omicron behaved the same as Delta, they would expect about 47 people to have been admitted to hospital already. At the moment there are only 15.

The researchers said they were seeing a roughly two-thirds reduction in the number needing hospital care, but there were very few cases and few at-risk elderly people in the study.

Dr Jim McMenamin, the national Covid-19 incident director at Public Health Scotland, described it as a “qualified good news story”.

He said the data was “filling in a blank” about protection against hospitalisation, but cautioned it was “important we don’t get ahead of ourselves”.

The Omicron variant is spreading incredibly quickly and a high number of cases could wipe out any benefit of it being milder.

Prof Mark Woolhouse, from the University of Edinburgh, said: “An individual infection could be relatively mild for the vast majority of people, but the potential for all these infections to come at once and put serious strain on the NHS remains.”

Meanwhile, another study in South Africa also points to the Omicron wave being milder.

It showed people were 70-80% less likely to need hospital treatment, depending on whether Omicron is compared to previous waves, or other variants currently circulating.

However, it suggested there was no difference in outcomes for the few patients that ended up in hospital with Omicron.

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