Omicron cases in Italy are “less than 0.2 percent”, according to information reported by Prime Minister Mario Draghi a day earlier, while other European countries already have a wider spread. So our country will have an advantage of about twenty days compared to the rest of Europe. But is the data we rely on is reliable? In fact, “we do not know the exact percentage of the presence of the Omicron variant in Italy” admits Professor Massimo Cicozzi of the Bio-Medico Campus in Rome. The problem is always the same: we don’t sequence enough. And so we walk in the dark.
Meanwhile, new tensions in the rest of Europe are rising to levels never seen before. The councilor for the health of the Madrid region, Enrique Ruiz Escudero, told Iberian media that the prevalence of the new variant may already be as high as 60% in some regions. In Portugal, one of the world’s most vaccinated countries, it is estimated that 20% of cases are caused by the new strain, but the percentage – the health minister said – could rise over the week of Christmas to reach 50% of the year. 80% by the end.
Major version in Scotland: “Tsunami has arrived”
According to Scottish Prime Minister Nicola Sturgeon, 51.4% of cases detected in Scotland are due to Omicron. Just a week ago, the figure was 15.5%. “The tsunami I warned about a week ago is starting to affect us,” Sturgeon said. He said the new wave is putting pressure on the economy and other essential services as more and more people get infected and have to isolate themselves.
The numbers speak for themselves: there were 93,045 infections in the United Kingdom today, an absolute record for the third day in a row. In London it is believed that Omicron is now dominant. Nearly 800,000 people have been infected across the island in the past two weeks alone. A problem in all areas as demonstrated in the Premier League case: nine games in the English First Division have actually been postponed due to the positives of many players in the Covid. And now there is talk of stopping the championship.
New restrictions in Denmark
In Denmark, which has about 5.8 million residents, more than 11,000 cases have been detected. In fair proportion, it seems that in Italy there were more than 110 thousand diagnoses a day. Just today Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen announced new restrictions, including the complete closure of cinemas, cinemas and concert halls, capacity limits for shops and restaurants, and a “curfew” for nightclubs, which are closed at 11 p.m. (No alcohol will be sold after 10 pm) is allowed.
What do we know about Omicron
That Omicron is a (much) more infectious form than the previous one, is now beyond doubt. According to ISPI data, it took 13 weeks for the Alpha strain to take effect in the UK, Delta only 6, Omicron could do it in three weeks. The doubling time was estimated at two to three days. Added to this is the fact that Omicron is partially immune: in addition to (partially) avoiding the immunity conferred by previous infections, it also makes vaccines less effective.
A study conducted in South Africa found that two doses of Pfizer provide 80 to 33% protection against infection, which is in line with data reported by the British Health Protection Agency (UKHSA) a few days ago.
Instead the efficacy against severe disease is estimated at 70% (previously at 93). Earlier laboratory studies suggest that a booster dose may be necessary to restore protection against this type, but at least in Italy only 23% of the population received an additional dose.
Is the new variant less viral?
The study in South Africa found that the risk of hospitalization with the new variant was 29% lower than with first-wave hospitalization rates. A decline, however, should be relevant in light of the high number of people already infected (about 70%) in the country before the new strain appeared.
From this perspective, the latest report from Imperial College London, which examined data from the UK Health Protection Agency and the National Health Service (NHS), does not leave much hope. The research found “no evidence that Omicron” causes infections of “less severity than Delta”, given the proportion of people testing positive report symptoms or the proportion of cases requiring hospital care after infection. Happened. “However – the authors specify – the figures for hospitalization are very limited at this time”.
What does the Imperial College report say?
The report also noted that the new version “significantly eliminates acquired immunity from the disease and that with two doses of the vaccine” it is against COVID. Experts estimate that “the risk of re-infection with the Omicron variant is 5.4 times higher than with the delta version” and therefore “the protection against re-infection by Omicron, which was introduced by an infection in the past, is 19% can reach”. The scientists also estimated the effectiveness of the Kovid vaccines against symptomatic Omicron infections. Well, “the effectiveness is between 0% and 20% after two doses and between 55% and 80% after a booster dose”.
More reliable data on the new version at the end of the month (or early January)
The British agency HSA expects to have reliable data on disease severity and vaccine effectiveness in the last week of December or the first week of January. Even if omicrons were less mild, experts warned, an extraordinary increase in infections would in any case risk putting health systems out of action.
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