Omicron up to 70% less likely to cause hospitalization than delta variant, UK government study finds

Christmas shoppers in London.

A U.K. government study shows that people are less likely to be admitted to hospital with the omicron Covid variant.

The U.K. Health Security Agency said that people with omicron are less likely to go to the emergency departments and more likely to go to the hospital.

The analysis is preliminary and highly uncertain due to the small number of omicron cases currently in hospital, the inability to effectively measure all previous infections, and the limited spread of the new variant to older age groups.

There are 132 people who were admitted to or transferred from the emergency departments. There were 74 people who were double vaccine and 27 who were unvaccinated. The vaccination status of 6 people was unknown, and eight people had received a single shot.

Fourteen people have died within 28 days of being diagnosed with omicron, ranging in age from 52 to 96 years old, according to the study.

Jenny Harries, chief executive of the UKHSA, said in a statement that the analysis shows that people who contract the Omicron variant may be at a relatively lower risk of hospitalisation.

This is early data and more research is needed to confirm the findings.

Scientists in South Africa and research teams at Imperial College London and the University of Edinburgh have similar findings in the preliminary data.

The National Institute for Communicable Diseases in South Africa found that people with omicron were 80% less likely to be sent to hospital. The risk of severe illness was reduced by 70%.

The authors of the study cautioned that this may be due to higher immunity among the population, either from previous infections or vaccinations. South African health officials said the data shouldn't be used to generalize.

In Scotland, researchers found that omicron is less likely to result in hospitalization than the other way around.

Preliminary findings show hope that the human and economic toll of the heavily mutated strain will not be as bad as first thought. The spread of Omicron has led to the introduction of restrictions in some countries as authorities race to contain it.

The high transmissibility of omicron means that the risk of health systems being overload during the winter is still high, as the vast number of infections will likely lead to more people requiring hospital care.

Omicron was first identified in South Africa in November and has since been labeled a "variant of concern" by the World Health Organization. The U.S. and the UK both reported over 100,000 cases for the second day in a row.