Omicron variant ‘may be what lifts us out of the pandemic’, says Denmark health official

Mass infection offers hope of herd immunity, according to health agency chief

Liam James
Wednesday 05 January 2022 15:38
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<p>“This may be what is going to lift us out of the pandemic” </p>

“This may be what is going to lift us out of the pandemic”

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The Omicron variant may spell the end of the coronavirus pandemic, one of Denmark's top public health officials has claimed.

Tyra Grove Krause, a leading official at the Statens Serum Institut (SSI) - the Danish equivalent of the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), said we may be experiencing the last wave of the pandemic as mass Omicron infections could provide a good level of herd immunity.

She said Covid will continue to have a hold over people's lives for the next two months but infections would then start to subside.

Asked how long the virus will have a decisive influence on the lives of Danes, she said: “I think it will have that in the next two months, and then I hope the infection will start to subside and we get our normal lives back.”

She added: “This may be what is going to lift us out of the pandemic, so that this becomes the last wave.”

A report from the SSI released on Monday suggests that the risk of being hospitalised with Omicron is less than half that of the Delta variant. It echoes an earlier study from the UKHSA which found the risk from Omicron was only one-third of that from Delta.

But Ms Krause, speaking to Denmark's TV 2 after the report was published, said healthcare systems would still be under pressure in the coming weeks despite the lower risk.

She said: “Omicron will peak at the end of January, and in February we will see declining infection pressure and decreasing pressure on the healthcare system. But we have to make an effort in January, because it will be hard to get through.”

The report, which has yet to be peer-reviewed, also offered insight into why Omicron was so transmissible.

It suggests the virus is mainly spreading more rapidly because it is better at evading immunity obtained from vaccines.

The scientists studied nearly 12,000 Danish households in mid-December and found that Omicron was 2.7 to 3.7 times more infectious than the Delta variant among vaccinated people.

The report also suggests that Omicron is more transmissible but causes less serious disease, as has been suspected by scientists since the emergence of the variant in November.

The report authors said: “Omicron is here to stay, and it will provide some massive spread of infection in the coming month. When it's over, we're in a better place than we were before.”

Ms Krause's assessment follows positive remarks from World Health Organisation chief Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

On New Year's Eve, he said “the opportunity to turn this pandemic around for good is in our grasp”.

But he warned that inequality in the global vaccine rollout had the potential to prolong the pandemic.

He said: “The longer inequity continues, the higher the risks of the virus evolving in ways we can’t prevent or predict ... If we end inequity, we end the pandemic.”

He added: “If we do so, we will save lives, relieve the burden on stretched health systems, and give respite to the legions of health workers who have toiled tirelessly and sacrificed so much for two years.”

“We will get our lives back, allow children to return to school, and people to work.”

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