Covid Watch 169: Omicron arrives in Shropshire amid no let-up in infection rates

Covid Watch 169: Omicron arrives in Shropshire amid no let-up in infection rates

Its here. Omicron is in Shropshire and in Telford & Wrekin, with nearly 2,000 identified across the UK.

There is a lot to be learnt about Omicron. We know it is spreading fast. Faster than the dominant variant Delta. We don’t yet know its health impacts or the risks of those with one, two or three doses of vaccine getting Covid-19, though initial indications are that three doses are needed to achieve 70% to 75% protection against symptomatic infection. We don’t yet know the health impacts of Omicron, the extent it will increase hospitalisation or lead to long term health consequences and deaths.

There has been a small dip in Covid-19 cases in Shropshire and Telford & Wrekin in recent days. However, the rollercoaster continues with infection rates going down only to go up again days later. As before, the infection rate is higher among younger people.

Cases have risen steeply in the Clun and Bucknell area, which stretches to the west edge of Craven Arms. More than ten cases a day were reported in the week to 5 December, an infection rate of 1,239 per 100,000 people. Rates have been high in the Bishop’s Castle area as well. The infection rate has fallen below 300 in Ludlow town.

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) estimates that if Omicron continues to grow at the present rate, the variant will become the dominant strain, accounting for more than 50% of all COVID-19 infections in the UK by mid-December. A research report published yesterday suggests that there could be a peak of over 2,000 daily hospital admissions. The number of deaths from the variant by the end of April could range from 25,000 to 75,000 depending on how well vaccines perform. Scary stuff.

Reporting on research that is not yet peer reviewed, the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine said yesterday:

“New modelling… suggests the Omicron variant has the potential to cause a wave of transmission in England that could lead to higher levels of cases and hospitalisations than those seen during January 2021, if additional control measures are not taken…

“Under the most optimistic scenario (low immune escape of Omicron and high effectiveness of boosters), a wave of infection is projected which could lead to a peak of over 2,000 daily hospital admissions, with 175,000… hospitalisations and 24,700… deaths between 1st December 2021 and 30th April 2022, if no additional control measures are implemented over and above the current ‘Plan B’ policy in England.”

Should we be worried? We should always be worried when any significant disease spreads but there is no need yet to press the panic button.

The Royal Shrewsbury Hospital and Prince Royal Hospital has asked all patients who might come to A&E to seek other alternatives such as 101, GPs and pharmacies. The two hospitals are at capacity with 93% of adult general and acute beds occupied.

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