The Omicron variant of the coronavirus has been ripping through the world for the better part of a month. The variant was first detected in South Africa just after Thanksgiving. It appears to replicate faster. Thus, it spreads with greater speed, than past variants of the virus, pointing to a much faster infection rate than what has so far been the case.
However, certain factors indicate that the Omicron variant leads to less severe symptoms and disease on average. CNBC has cited three studies that bolster that idea.
A preprint study from South Africa shows that those infected with Omicron are 80 percent less likely to be hospitalized than those with other strain although that may have a lot to do with a great deal of prior immunity.
Another study from Scotland found similar results. It found not only that Omicron infections are “two-thirds less likely to result in hospitalization” compared to those with Delta variant infections, but that a third shot is effective
“These early national data suggest that Omicron is associated with a two-thirds reduction in the risk of COVID-19 hospitalisation when compared to Delta,” according to the Scottish study.
And a third study in England found that hospitalization risk for those with Omicron-caused coronavirus is 40 percent to 45 percent lower than in those with the Delta variant of the coronavirus.
All three of those studies are not yet peer-reviewed.
Meanwhile, there is another bit of good news related to Omicron. One expert says that the current trajectory of the new variant could help hasten the end of the pandemic.
“As all the public health folks have been saying, it’s going to rip right through the population,” Dr. David Ho, a world-renowned virologist and Columbia University professor, told CNBC. Dr. Ho was a key figure in the drugs that helped turn the tide on the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the mid-1990s. “Sometimes a rapid-fire could burn through very quickly but then put itself out.”
Dr. Ho did acknowledge that this is a “speculative” theory, although he’s far from the first to put it forward.
Another doctor, Dr. Bruce Farber of Northwell Health, called the idea of a highly contagious variant that doesn’t make most people sick a “best-case scenario” that could “certainly help end large spikes of deadly Covid with high hospitalizations.”
Other experts quoted by the outlet, meanwhile, stated that they don’t expect the coronavirus to ever go away completely, but perhaps to remain a seasonal disease that continues to affect some percentage of the population each year.
Stephen Silver, a technology writer for the National Interest, is a journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to The Philadelphia Inquirer, Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.