Crunching numbers: The breach of the 200,000 mark for daily reported Covid cases in the UK has set off a new scare about the speed of the transmissibility of Omicron. Not forgetting for a moment that the figure of 218,724 is necessarily only a fraction of the real spread, even if it includes a backlog of cases piled up from some regions. The new figures oddly include a dip in the number of deaths to a relatively few 48. But with Tuesday the first working day after the New Year holidays, the figures from the next few days will be more telling.
Dangerous trend: There is little doubt though that the weekly average of hospitalisations and deaths is rising, each by about 50 per cent. Those certainly are actual numbers and not estimates. As a fraction of the overall spread, these are still only a small number. But as the WHO has warned, a relatively small fraction from larger overall numbers can still mean a lot. Already several hospitals in Britain have had more patients coming in than they have room for.
Vaccine vacillation: The pattern is now clear, that the majority of those admitted to hospital in serious condition are the unvaccinated. In Britain that would mean people who have refused vaccination, despite the strong government push, and the large recent uptake. One in five in Britain is still unvaccinated, and that is a lot of people. Most others are fortunate to have a relatively mild Omicron made milder by vaccination of the effective kind, which has come to mean Pfizer and Moderna.
Little protection: Going by percentages and the pattern in Britain, the spread of Omicron in India, only just gathering pace, could well lead to a temporary spell of hospitalisations, and a rush for hospital care that there isn’t adequate capacity for. It doesn’t help that in the face of Omicron, practically all of India is as good as, or as bad as, unvaccinated, given the very little protection that double vaccination with AstraZeneca offers. India’s best protection now is immunity developed through earlier exposure and infection.
‘Keep boosters for the vulnerable’: Sir Andrew Pollard, who was a lead scientist in developing the AstraZeneca vaccine deployed in India as Covishield, now says it is not necessary to vaccinate most people regularly. He says this is neither practical nor affordable. A lot of people in Africa have not had one dose, and developed countries are now planning their fourth. But boosters should be kept for the particularly vulnerable, he says. The AstraZeneca vaccine has proved largely ineffectual against Omicron.