Scientists are seeing signs that Omicron’s alarming wave of COVID-19 may have peaked in Britain and is about to do the same in the United States, at which point cases may start to decline dramatically.
Reason: variable It has proven to be so contagious that it could actually run out of people to infect, just a month and a half after it was first detected in South Africa..
“It will go down as quickly as you go up,” said Ali Mokdad, professor of health metrics sciences at the University of Washington in Seattle.
At the same time, experts warn that much remains uncertain about how the next phase of the pandemic may develop. The plateau or ebb in the two countries does not happen everywhere at the same time or at the same pace. Weeks or months of misery still await patients and overburdened hospitals even as the withdrawal fades.
“There are still a lot of people who are going to get infected when we go down the back slope,” said Lauren Ansel Meyers, director of the University of Texas COVID-19 Models Consortium, which expects reported cases to peak within a week.
The highly influential University of Washington model predicts that the number of cases reported per day in the United States will reach 1.2 million by January 19 and then decline sharply “simply because everyone who can get infected will become infected,” according to Mokdad.
Indeed, by the university’s complex calculations, he said, the true number of new daily infections in the United States — an estimate that includes people who have never been tested — has already peaked, reaching 6 million on Jan. 6.
Meanwhile, new cases of Covid-19 in Britain fell to about 140,000 per day last week, after jumping to more than 200,000 the day before this month, according to government data.
Kevin McConway, a retired professor of applied statistics at Britain’s Open University, said that while cases were still rising in places like south-west England and the West Midlands, the outbreak may have peaked in London.
The figures raised hopes that the two countries were about to succumb to something similar to what happened in South Africa, where in about a month the wave reached record levels and then fell dramatically.
Dr Paul Hunter, Professor of Medicine, said: “We are seeing a clear reduction in the number of cases in the UK, but I would like to see them decline a lot more before we know if what happened in South Africa is going to happen here.” at the University of East Anglia, UK.
Disagreements between Britain and South Africa, including Britain’s older population and its people’s tendency to spend more time indoors in winter, could mean outbreaks in the country and other countries like it.
On the other hand, the decision of the British authorities to adopt minimal restrictions against omicron could enable the virus to penetrate the population and take its course much faster than would happen in Western European countries that have imposed stricter restrictions on COVID-19, such as France, Spain and Italy.
Shabbir Mahdi, dean of health sciences at the University of the Witwatersrand in South Africa, said European countries imposing lockdowns would not necessarily come through an Omicron wave with fewer infections. Cases may only be spread out over a longer period of time.
On Tuesday, the World Health Organization said that 7 million new cases of COVID-19 were recorded across Europe in the past week, describing it as a “tidal wave sweeping the region.” The World Health Organization cited a modeling from Mikdad’s group that predicts that half of Europe’s population will be infected with oomicrons within about eight weeks.
By then, however, Hunter and others predict that the world has outgrown the Omicron rush.
“There will probably be some ups and downs along the way, but I hope by Easter we’ll be out of this,” Hunter said.
However, Dr Prabhat Jha of the Center for Global Health Research at St Michael’s Hospital in Toronto said the sheer numbers of infected could be overwhelming to fragile health systems.
“The next few weeks are going to be tough because in absolute numbers, there are so many infected people that the disease is going to the intensive care units,” Jha said.
Al-Mokdad similarly warned in the US: “It will be two or three difficult weeks. We have to make difficult decisions to allow some essential workers to continue working, knowing that they can be contagious.”
Myers, of the University of Texas, said Omicron could one day be seen as a turning point in the pandemic. Acquired immunity from all new infections, combined with new drugs and ongoing vaccination, could make coronavirus something we can live with more easily.
“At the end of this wave, many more people will be infected with some form of COVID,” Myers said. “At some point, we’ll be able to draw a line – and the omicron may be that point – as we go from a catastrophic global threat to something more manageable.”
This is a reasonable future, she said, but there is also the possibility of a new variant – much worse than Omicron – emerging.
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