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Covid Quick Stats Update - Omicron - 17th Dec 2021

Dec 17, 2021

Omicron...I can feel a 'quick stats update' coming on.

The Omicron 'game' is a different game. It crushes Test and Trace, for example. This is going to be big now. In short, prepare mentally now for many to make self-imposed restrictions (often sensibly, where vulnerable and decent isolation is possible) as well as for more Government-imposed restrictions.

I hope you got through the Delta period OK in 2021. I got Delta (or whatever variant of the virus but won't have been Omicron) early in November, from 2x10 mins in a car with someone who was convinced they didn't have it. Soooo transmissible. And I passed it on to someone close within a day or two before I realised I might have it. Sooo transmissible. I'm OK, but Omicron is even faster than Delta, and it's the speed and the variance of severity in old/vulnerable, not the average severity, that causes a problem.

As usual, the one performance indicator for whether Government restrictions happen, no matter what they say, is 'protection of the NHS'. No Government of any colour can survive NHS overwhelm for even a short period. To be graphic for a moment, Conservative, Labour, or you, if in power, would be the same. You'd not politically survive the pics of people dying while unable to get into hospital because the beds are full.
With a 2-day doubling rate (unbelievably exponential) Omicron spreads from person to person often faster than symptoms begin to emerge, or a PCR test can be taken and reported the next night. So we can't stop its exponential spread, except for the partial effect of individual recent vaccination or recent recovery from infection (effective 3-6 months approx).

Life will be very different again very very soon. And I don't mean after the Christmas holiday. It will be a tsunami of cases very quickly. And even with slightly more mild effects than Delta:

a) it will badly confuse the data on cases, hospitalisations and fatalities coming from BBC etc, until they change the reporting methods to something more appropriate. The current reporting methods will become quite meaningless. eg 27% of people in hospital with Omicron did not test positive on entry. However that doesn't mean they caught it in hospital (though many will). Many will have caught it, nothing to do with the reason for their hospital stay, within the 0-48 hours before entry. Remember that LFT especially, but also PCRs, lag symptoms and also infectiousness. This will all lead to a total confusion about the facts and policy formation around Omicron for a while. So to the public, policy will look like guesswork for a while.

b) Hospitalisation rates FROM Omicron (not just WITH) Omicron - though it may be hard to prove it against naysayers for a while - will rise quickly from now. While individually for the non-old/vulnerable the probability of ending up in hospital is very small, the sheer number of cases all at once means that (very big x very small = large). And seeing this hospitalisation exponential growth in December will spook Government with fear of overwhelm, and yes, the risk will be there. Add to this that NHS staffing will be decimated by staff cases, reducing capacity considerably. Government will then restrict, to err on the side of caution.

c) Sadly, fatalities FROM not just WITH Omicron will rise quickly in January. No-one can predict the scale, though remember that for the non-old/vulnerable, the rate is very very small per person. It's just the rush of Omicron to get into and through our population that will create a spike (a small % of a very big lot is still a lot).

So...when Boris said only 10 days ago that Christmas 2021 will be a lot better than Christmas 2020, he was right by the data - for 24 hours. When the new variant showed up only a day or two after that, it very quickly made that statement look very out of date.

Here's hoping for 2022/23 that covid gradually follows the old pattern of new variants becoming progressively less severe. And that new variants are low on vax-avoidance.

Merry Christmas (or other celebration!), everyone. Even without needing hospitalisation, I know long Covid is, and will be, a bit nasty for many. I hope you manage OK.

Category: Covid-19