Dangerousness, pressure on the hospital … Omicron's first lessons from abroad

Omicron, new heavyweight champion. The new variant overwhelmed the Delta, dominating so far, in a matter of weeks. The changeover is already carried out in the United Kingdom, Denmark and the United States. It is about to occur in France, warned government spokesman Gabriel Attal on Wednesday at the exit of the Council of Ministers.

According to data compiled by the Covidtracker site , approximately 10% of new cases are suspected to be related to Omicron. More than double in Ile-de-France . But this figure is progressing “at a brisk pace”, according to the executive, which believes that this variant could become the majority between Christmas and the New Year. As a result, more than 90 daily contaminations according to the Minister of Health Olivier Véran, interviewed by RMC this Wednesday.

To find out what awaits the country in the coming days, attention is logically turning to the United Kingdom and South Africa, the two most affected countries – among the first – by this new strain which first appeared in southern Africa in mid-November. What do the first studies say about it? Omicron would not be inherently more dangerous than Delta. But its ability to spread very quickly and bypass immunity provided by vaccines is cause for concern for hospitals.

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South Africa is doing without disaster. .

On the dangerousness, the South African case is hopeful. The country has apparently passed its wave of contamination due to the Omicron variant, from nearly 21 000 cases at the end of last week (on average) at 18 000 this Tuesday, decreasing. This was the most important. But not for severe cases and deaths. “It was a short wave … and the good news is that it was not very serious in terms of hospitalizations and deaths,” Marta Nunes confirmed to Associated Press (AP). Principal Investigator in the Department of Vaccine and Infectious Disease Analysis at the University of the Witwatersrand. About 45 deaths are recorded on average on the spot. A number in slight increase, but which does not follow the dreaded curve of infections.

A South African study published on Tuesday (preprint, not yet evaluated peer), from 290 Covid case – 19 recorded between October 1 and 23 November, also seems to confirm this more low hazard of the Omicron variant. “Initial analyzes suggest a reduced risk of hospitalization in individuals infected with SGTF (Omicron) compared to individuals uninfected with SGTF during the same period, and a reduced risk of serious illness compared to individuals infected with Delta earlier, ”she notes. “Part of this reduction is probably due to the strong immunity of the population”, add its authors, a sign that Omicron does not cross all the barriers posed by vaccination.

The same pattern would be repeated in the United Kingdom. Hospital admissions are at a relatively low level, around 870 through day, against more than 3000 at the height of the winter wave, a year ago. There are four times fewer people entering critical care services than at the height of previous outbreaks. However, the United Kingdom is beating contamination records, with 85 detected per day on average at the moment, a record.

According to the site Politico , the Health Security Agency would be ready to confirm, in one report, the lowest dangerousness of Omicron. For now, the latter has only reduced the period of isolation from ten to seven days. People who have two negative antigenic tests carried out on the sixth and seventh days will be able to come out of their isolation. A rather political decision, with the approach of Christmas, so that a handful of Britons are not deprived of Christmas.

Pressure to come on hospitals? Be careful, all the same, with Omicron. Even less dangerous, its strong contagiousness can quickly saturate hospitals, specialists recently estimated. A report by SPI-MO , a group of government experts, published on the website of UK government on 16 December and spotted by the daily The weather , was rather alarming about it. According to this document, hospital admissions could increase by 870 at 2000 per day by the end of the year. Omicron having just become dominant, and the peak not having been reached across the Channel, the current good figures would only be the result of a simple “gap” traditionally observed between the contamination records and the entries in the hospitals.

In another report , a again spotted by Le Temps and dated 16 December, Imperial College was also not convinced of a happy end . “In all scenarios, it is likely that health systems will be under strain.” More generally, the moderate forms of the virus are to be feared. Those who, without necessarily harming the hospital system, are hurting the country’s economy, by pushing workers and civil servants on sick leave, and by forcing millions of others to isolate themselves from time to time.

In France, more than 2021 people are currently admitted to critical care units. But admissions, mainly due to the Delta variant, are no longer increasing. Here again, caution. Omicron has affected a relatively young population in South Africa, but also in the UK, perhaps less likely to generate severe cases. But the Christmas holidays are fast approaching. And with it, mixtures between generations. The Omicron risk therefore cannot be ruled out. Above all, when his wave is just beginning a priori.


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