People catching Omicron are 50-70 per cent less likely to need hospital care compared with previous variants, according to the latest analysis from The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA).
The organisation says the early findings are “encouraging”, even if the variant could still lead to large numbers of people in hospital due to rising infections.
Dr Jenny Harries, the chief executive of the UKHSA, said: “Our latest analysis shows an encouraging early signal that people who contract the Omicron variant may be at a relatively lower risk of hospitalisation than those who contract other variants.”
The analysis is based on all cases of Omicron and Delta in the UK since the beginning of November, including 132 people admitted to hospital with the variant. There have also been 14 deaths in people within 28 days of catching Omicron.
Its data also suggests the booster provides up to 10 weeks of protection before it starts to wane against the Omicron variant, a crucial grace period as conditions become more difficult over winter in the run up to Christmas.
UKHSA’s findings follow published research from both Edinburgh University and Imperial College London suggesting the new variant is considerably less severe than the Delta variant, alongside encouraging news that booster jabs of AstraZeneca’s vaccine can also provide protection from Omicron.
The UK has also ordered 4.25m more anti-viral pills molnupiravir and Pfizer-made Paxlovid.
Downing Street is reportedly weighing up whether to impose new restrictions this winter after ruling out measures before Christmas.
Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have all brought in extra social distancing measures, while neighbouring European countries such as Netherlands have re-entered lockdown.
There is a fear of increased hospitalisations and more pressure on the NHS this winter, purely through the sheer number of infections.
On Thursday, the UK reported 119,789 confirmed Covid-19 cases – including 16,817 Omicron cases – and 147 deaths.
However, while cases have risen 18 per cent in a week, this is well below initial fears from the UKHSA of cases doubling every two days and passing the 200,000 threshold.
Meanwhile, a total of 840,038 booster and third doses of COVID vaccine were reported in the UK on Wednesday – with health secretary Sajid Javid cutting down isolation periods for people infected with new variant from 10 days to seven.