Covid Watch 175: Infection rates no longer falling as Omicron affects all ages

Covid-19 cases have fallen from their peak quickly but in Shropshire and England the infection rate is no longer falling significantly. In Telford & Wrekin, rates have fallen, risen and now appear to be falling again. Rates in Shropshire and Telford remain higher than those across England.

Almost all cases are now the Omicron variant. It is different in its impacts from the Delta variant. More young people are affected by Omicron probably due to lower vaccination levels in younger cohorts. But there are also many Omicron cases among older people among who vaccination rates are high. This is probably due to vaccine escape – where vaccinated people can still catch the virus– or reinfection of people who have a previous Covid-19 infection.

Infection rates in Shropshire are currently around 890 per 100,000 people, higher than across England where the rate is around 760. The picture is a bit different in Telford & Wrekin where an early steep fall in Omicron infection rates was temporarily reversed, though rates are falling quickly again. The infection rate in Telford is currently around 1,280, nearly twice the England rate. In Ludlow town, the rate was around 850 in the week to 21 January, around 13 new cases a day.

It’s nearly all Omicron now. The variant, which emerged in mid-November, is estimated to have caused 99.5% of the cases in Shropshire and 99.0% of cases in England in the seven days to 15 January. In Telford & Wrekin, 97.9% of cases were estimated to be Omicron.

The Omicron wave, which began in the UK in mid-December, is different in character from the Delta wave that dominated from mid-summer until the beginning of the winter. Because Omicron is so much more transmissible than Delta, infections rates shot up quickly in mid-December, especially among the unvaccinated. With Delta, rates see-sawed up and down. It is not yet clear whether a similar pattern will occur with Omicron.

A difference between the two variants is that Omicron is infecting, sometimes reinfecting, more older people. Most of the age cohorts will have been vaccinated. But for most people, the systems are milder, with few people becoming hospitalised and fewer dying due to the protection provided by vaccination.

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