Early data points to lower hospitalisation rate linked to Omicron, says expert

Brunt of latest wave in South Africa is being felt in community rather than hospitals

Early data emerging from Denmark and South Africa indicates there may be a lower hospitalisation rate linked to the Omicron variant of Covid-19, according to an infectious diseases consultant.

Prof Paddy Mallon, a consultant at St Vincent's Hospital and professor of microbial diseases at UCD, said South Africa was reporting a "distinct disconnect" between daily cases numbers and deaths which was "reassuring."

“There is a sense, talking to the South Africans, that the brunt of this pandemic is being felt in the community rather than in the hospitals. So, a lot of people are getting sick, but the brunt of it is falling on community services rather hospitals. Whether that will happen here remains to be seen.”

In addition, he said while there were "alarming" numbers of cases of the Omicron variant in Denmark - which has a similar population and vaccination rate to Ireland - this has not yet translated into very high hospitalisation rates.


“They are about a week ahead of us in terms of Omicron and, when you look at their numbers, they are alarming. The day before yesterday they had 11,000 cases... two weeks ago, they had about 7-8,000 cases a day.

"Normally, two weeks later, you expect that to translate into hospital admissions. Yesterday, they had an additional 15 hospitalisations," he told the Brendan O'Connor Show on RTÉ radio.

He said while there is “a lot of talk of Armageddon” in terms of what may happen in the UK, it was worth noting that Ireland has had different policies in terms of managing Covid-19 and public buy-in.

“So, we just need to take a breath and see what unfolds over the next week to 10 days in Denmark”

Prof Mallon also warned again recipients of the booster dose of the Covid-19 vaccine assuming they are “bullet-proof” against the virus or passing it on.

He said while the consensus is that it takes seven days for the benefits of the booster dose to take hold, there is still a high risk of transmitting the virus.

“So, if people think that just because I’ve got a booster, I don’t need to follow the public health advice, that I can meet up with vulnerable members of my family, that really isn’t the case.

“We do need to take other measures to protect our loved ones, especially around this time of year.”

He said those meeting up with vulnerable family members should consider all the normal public health advice around ventilation and mask wearing, along with using antigen tests before meeting up.

“We know from last year that you don’t get a second chance... I saw that last January in hospital when huge numbers of people were coming in, very unwell, because they made the wrong choices at Christmas.

“Some of those people will not be sitting at Christmas dinner this year. Everyone needs to take a step back, look at who you are mingling with, look at your loved ones, and make sure to take the necessary precautions.”

Carl O'Brien

Carl O'Brien

Carl O'Brien is Education Editor of The Irish Times. He was previously chief reporter and social affairs correspondent