Covid: Omicron more contagious but less severe, several studies found

Published by Laurent P. · Published on 5 January 2022 at 18h06
This past December 3, French Health Minister Olivier Véran said “the first signals” about the Covid Omicron variant “don’t seem to show excessive seriousness of cases compared to the Delta variant”. The observation tends to be confirmed by several studies released in late December 2021.

Is the Covid Omicron variant not this worrying…? This is in a nutshell what French Health Minister Olivier Véran explained this past December 3 on Franceinfo, specifying “the first signals coming from Southern Africa don’t seem to show excessive seriousness of cases compared to the Delta variant”. This same day, still according to the minister, “nine cases have been confirmed in at least five different regions” in the country.

He adds although this new variant could be “clearly at least as contagious as Delta” even if “one still ignores the health consequences”, “our common enemy now is the Delta variant”. Whether it involves Delta or Omicron, “our action aims at protecting the French from all variants, the emergency is the 5th wave, it is the Delta variant that is very contagious and we know the harmful ability, but the emergency is to stop the spread of the Omicron variant”, Olivier Véran added.

How does it look like a month later? According to several studies carried out in the United Kingdom – a Scottish one at the University of Edinburgh, and two British ones, the first from the Imperial College London, the other from the NHS – as well as in South Africa, and released in late December, the trend is confirmed: the Omicron variant is indeed more contagious but does only cause little or not sever illness. The observation has been made in France as well, after the new strain of the virus has become – right prior to New Year – the dominant strain in the country, as Olivier Véran told this January 2 our peers from JDD. He claimed “this fifth wave could be the last”.

The same observation has been made by Pr. Bruno Mégarbane, head of the intensive care unit at the Lariboisière hospital, to Le Parisien: “if as of January 20th nothing has happened at the hospital, nothing will”, he explained. But it did not prevent the Health Minister to confirm back to early December, when data were still suggestions, laboratories were adjusting their vaccines, although for now, no fourth dose is considered.

We already have had variants like this, emerging at some point, the Beta, the South-African, the Brazilian, without them leading to major epidemic waves”, the Minister went on. A statement that sounded surprising while a South-African study recently revealed the Covid reinfection risk could increase with the Omicron variant.

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