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Leah Farrell
HSE chief

Paul Reid: We'll 'cling to hope' of Omicron studies, but variant is more transmissible than Delta

Paul Reid said that Omicron is over 5.5 times more transmissible than Delta.

HSE CHIEF PAUL Reid has said it’s still early days in assessing the danger of Omicron, as two British studies were published that aimed to shed some light on how severe the new variant of concern may be. 

Scientists involved in a study published by the University of Edinburgh yesterday said that Omicron is associated with a two-thirds reduction in the risk of hospital admission compared with Delta.

New research from Imperial College London published today has indicated that people with PCR-confirmed Omicron are 15-20% less likely to need admission to hospital, and 40-45% less likely to require a stay of one night or more.

But Professor Neil Ferguson, from the Imperial College London team said the moderate reduced hospitalisations “appears to be offset by the reduced efficacy of vaccines against infection with the Omicron variant”.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland today, HSE Chief Executive Paul Reid made a similar point about the studies.

“There’s always a few qualifiers in all of this – first of all Omicron only emerged in South Africa since 24 November. It’s really early days in terms of the evidence from all of this. 

Reid said that the Omicron variant is thought to be over five and a half times more transmissible than Delta – which is the main concern. 

“There’s early evidence that we’d all cling to the hope of, but equally we do know it’s a highly transmissible virus.”

On the University of Edinburgh study, Reid said the potential reduction in hospitalisations was a “key finding” – but added the concern “is purely the volume”.

Reid said that if the number of Covid-19 cases continues to increase, “we’re still dealing with a much higher volume of hospitalisations”, adding that that would put “severe strain on our overall health system”. 

He said the study did show that a booster demonstrated “substantial additional protection” against risk of symptomatic illness.

There were 109,000 vaccine doses administered yesterday; with 106,000 of these booster shots. Over the past three days, 303,000 doses have been administered. Around 8% of the adult population has received a vaccine since Monday.

Reid said that 54% of patients with Covid-19 in ICU are completely unvaccinated; those who are unvaccinated make up just 6% of the adult population. 

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