Britons can celebrate ‘glimmer of Christmas hope’ on Covid, says health boss

Britons can celebrate “a glimmer of Christmas hope” according to one of the country’s top health officials, following preliminary findings that people with the Omicron coronavirus variant are less likely to have to go to hospital than those who do not. infected with Delta, according to one of the country’s top health officials.

Jenny Harries, chief executive of the UK Health Security Agency, spoke on Friday after UKHSA reported that people infected with Covid-19 had a 50 per cent lower risk of being hospitalized with Omicron. 70% compared to Delta.

She said the findings were based on “some very, very preliminary analysis and very small numbers”. Importantly, Omicron is now being seen largely in young people “and only now are cases starting to shift to the older population, especially those 60 and 70 years of age and older.”

Harries, who earlier this month described Omicron as perhaps a “significant threat” since the start of the pandemic, told the BBC: “[I]Certainly not yet to the point where we can downgrade that serious threat. “

Asked about a threshold for how much pressure on the NHS would lead to the UK government’s decision to impose more coronavirus restrictions in the UK, she suggested that not only the extent of hospital admissions but also The number of health service workers sick will play an important part.

Data from NHS England on Thursday showed the number of staff forced to self-isolate because of Covid rose 54 per cent in the past week.

A total of 18,829 NHS staff were absent because of coronavirus or asked to self-isolate on December 19, up from about 12,000 a week earlier. In London, the area hardest hit by Omicron, the number of staff absenteeism increased 2.5-fold in the past week.

Harries said ministers “will look at all the data that we have available and that’s not simply what epidemiology is saying, it’s how it impacts society”.

In London, one in 35 people now has Omicron. “Now that’s having an impact on the workforce,” she added. “So these are not simply about hospitalization rates.”

Responding to UKHSA’s own analysis on Thursday that the protection of the Covid vaccine boosters starts to wane after 10 weeks, Harries said the booster shots will continue to have a “positive impact”. significantly in the prevention of serious illness and death.”

The NHS will deliver boosters throughout the Christmas weekend as it races to achieve its goal of giving everyone over 18 a third shot by the end of the month.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson, in his Christmas message, urged everyone to receive a boost “not only for ourselves, but for our friends, family and everyone we meet”. .

After all, it is the teaching of Jesus Christ, he added. . . that we should love our neighbors as we love ourselves. ”

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