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Omicron variant has 80% lower risk of hospitalization, study says

The omicron variant may lead to less severe symptoms after all

Medical workers treat a patient with COVID-19 at a hospital.
Medical workers treat a patient with COVID-19 in the intensive care unit at the hospital “Reseau hospitalier neuchatelois” Pourtales site during the fifth wave of the coronavirus disease pandemic in Neuchatel, Switzerland, Tuesday, Dec. 21, 2021.
Laurent Gillieron, Keystone via Associated Press

COVID-19 patients in South Africa are 80% less likely to be hospitalized by the omicron variant compared to previous coronavirus strains, according to a new study from the National Institute for Communicable Diseases.

  • The study said patients still faced the same risk of severe COVID-19 symptoms when they were hospitalized, though.
  • Omicron variant infections have been linked to a 70% lower risk in severe COVID-19 symptoms, according to Bloomberg.

Researchers involved with the study — which was published on medRxiv, a preprint server, ahead of peer-review — said the drop in severity was likely tied to South Africa’s population having high immunity from previous infections and the COVID-19 vaccine, according to Reuters.

  • “So even though cases of omicron were less likely to end up in hospital than cases of delta, it is not possible to say whether this is due to inherent differences in virulence or whether this is due to higher population immunity in November compared to earlier in the year,” said Paul Hunter, a professor of medicine at the U.K.’s University of East Anglia, according to Bloomberg.

A bundle of early data and research suggest the omicron COVID-19 variant has led to less severe symptoms for patients, as well as a decrease in hospitalizations, as I wrote for the Deseret News.

That said, the new COVID-19 variant has been shown to evade the current COVID-19 vaccines. In fact, the World Health Organization warned Monday that the omicron variant can infect both vaccinated people and reinfect recovered patients, as I wrote for the Deseret News.

  • “There is now consistent evidence that Omicron is spreading significantly faster than the Delta variant,” WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Monday, per Reuters.
  • “And it is more likely people vaccinated or recovered from COVID-19 could be infected or re-infected,” Tedros said.