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Omicron could lead to 25,000 to 75,000 deaths in UK, says study

The UK is seeing the most rapid spread of the Omicron variant anywhere in the world, with more than 600 new cases being confirmed on Saturday. The unconfirmed spread could be much higher.

Written by Amitabh Sinha | Pune |
Updated: December 13, 2021 8:45:50 am
People wear masks as they exit Westminster Underground station, in London, Thursday, Dec. 9, 2021. (AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali)

The Omicron variant of coronavirus could claim between 25,000 to 75,000 deaths in the United Kingdom by April next year, if additional protection measures were not taken, a new study from the UK has warned.

The UK is seeing the most rapid spread of the Omicron variant anywhere in the world, with more than 600 new cases being confirmed on Saturday. The unconfirmed spread could be much higher.

The new study, by researchers at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and South Africa’s Stellenbosch University, has done a range of projections considering different scenarios for the variant’s transmission capability and interventions like administering of booster doses of vaccine.

In the most optimistic scenario, involving low immune escape and high booster dose efficacy, the hospitalisation rate is likely to rise to 60 per cent of the peak that the UK saw in January this year (about 3,800 hospital admissions every day).

“These results suggest that the introduction of Omicron B.1.1.529 variant in England will lead to a substantial increase in SARS-CoV2 transmission, which, in the absence of strict control measures, has the potential for substantially higher case rate than those recorded during the Alpha winter wave in 2020-21. This is due to Omicron’s apparent high transmissibility and ability to infect individuals with existing immunity to SARS-CoV2 from prior infection or from vaccination,” the study says.

While the variant has spread quickly in Europe, most notably in UK and Denmark, there is still no signs of this causing more severe diseases. In fact, all evidence till now has been suggesting that it causes significantly mild disease compared to the Delta variant.

But as the cases rise rapidly, mainly due to its enhanced capacity to avoid the immune system, even a small proportion of hospitalisations could translate into large numbers, as is being feared in the UK.

With another case detected in Delhi on Saturday, the number of confirmed Omicron infections in India has risen to 33.

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