Here’s the latest COVID-19 UK data. Earlier this week, I said that I thought the data might be pointing to a peak in the current Delta spike and so encouragingly we saw a fall in cases yesterday.
This is probably good news in the short term because one of my concerns following the recent changes to guidance was that I am sceptical as to whether the measures introduced will affect transmission of Omicron that much. It was/is possible therefore that we could feel forced into introducing further measures soon. However, this probably depends on whether any new growth from the new variant is compensated for by reduction in Delta cases.
After a sustained period of falling hospital admissions, yesterday saw a small increase in hospitalisations. It is possible at this stage though that this reflects a flattening out of the curve rather than a return to sharp growth but we will need to keep a close eye on the figures.
Here also is the data for inpatients with COVID and those in ICU on mechanical ventilation
Finally, here’s the current % of COVID cases resulting in hospitalisation based on a 10 day lag.
This last one is perhaps the most crucial right now. Firstly because it helps explain why we’ve had a sustained period of falling admissions. There has also been a sustained period of admissions ~2%. This is presumably down in no small part to the effectiveness of vaccinations and particularly booster jabs.
The challenge right now though is that we do not know how much efficacy against serious disease the vaccines will lose due to the mutations in the omicron variant. It only takes a small change in vaccine efficacy to significantly affect admission numbers. For example if the % of admissions increased back up to 3% (which would be in line with where it has been for much of the preceding months since the summer, then 50k daily cases would result in circa 1500 admissions per day. If that kind of vaccine escape was also accompanied by increased transmission and cases sky rocketed to over 100,000 then we would be looking at 3k of admissions per day and we’d be finding ourselves back in the territory we were in during the first two waves. There would then be significant pressure for lockdowns to come into play again.
As with hospitalisations I think we are seeing a flattening out of the curve at the moment.
As with admissions, a small change in vaccine efficacy on serious disease could have significant implications for mortality if accompanied by increased transmission.
Based on the current data, here are projections for possible admissions and mortality going into the rest of December.
Now, it is worth noting that the range I set for my scenarios on admissions was 2.5% -3.5%, the idea of a sustained period of admissions below 2% of cases looked over optimistic at the time. This means we have generally speaking been doing better than what I projected.
Assuming that we continue to experience those low admission rates, I would expect hospital admissions to be at around about 890 going into the Christmas holidays. In terms of mortality, we are probably looking at around 150 deaths per day going into early January.
Because South Africa was one of the first countries to identify the presence of Omicron there, we’ve also been watching the case numbers there to give us a feel for what other countries can expect.
The good news is that the rate of growth in case numbers has slowed down. The less good news is that it’s from an extremely ridiculously high rate of growth to a ridiculously high rate. Therefore I’m reluctant to suggest that this is a sign of real slow down or that cases might be approaching their peak, rather that the initial pace of growth was never going to be sustainable for long and we are now seeing things settle down to a more normal growth rate. Remember that this is still 3 or 4 times greater than the kind of growth rate that really worried us in the UK through previous spikes.
If we were only dealing with the Delta variant we have experienced through much of this year then things would be looking extremely positive. However Omicron has introduced a whole new level of uncertainty.