New hope London is winning war on Omicron

·4-min read

Hopes grew on Monday that the capital is winning the battle against Omicron as official figures showed confirmed cases falling among Londoners aged 60 and over who are more vulnerable to the virus.

Hospital admissions of Covid patients in the city are also falling.

The latest infection figures also gave further weight to the Omicron wave having peaked in London - as suggested in the Standard last Tuesday - with 16,493 confirmed new cases announced on Sunday, the lowest figure since 12,832 on December 14.

Crucially, the seven-day infection rate for Londoners aged 60 and over, who are more vulnerable to the virus than younger age groups, may now be falling.

Watch: Omicron hospital admission 90% less likely after booster, says Sajid Javid

It has gone down for two days running from 1,324 confirmed cases per 100,000 on January 2 to 1272 for the week to the 4th, which may be due to less intergenerational mixing after the Christmas break.

For Londoners aged 59 and below it went up from 1879 to 1906, reversing the recent trend between these two large age groups, but the figures are expected to fall for both of them in coming days.

London’s public health chief Professor Kevin Fenton told The Standard: “Latest data suggests that London may be past the peak of the Omicron wave of infection.

“In the past two days, we have seen case numbers decrease in the over 60s and this is a promising sign which we continue to track.

“However, overall case numbers remain very high and are currently undulating at a high level, so Omicron is persisting and we are not seeing the rapid retreat that we would’ve liked, meaning London is still under pressure.”

He added: “For this reason, it is important that all of us as Londoners do all we can to keep Omicron on a downward trajectory by implementing the important Plan B measures - wearing face coverings as advised, working from home where possible, testing regularly and self-isolating at home if unwell, and getting vaccinated with the first dose, second dose, and booster, even if you have had Covid-19 before.”

The Government’s Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance has stressed that a drop in infections among older people is key to when the threat from Omicron will have peaked, even if overall cases are coming down earlier.

In further good news, hospital admissions of coronavirus patients in London have dropped, to 312 on Friday, compared to a recent peak of 511 on December 29.

The number of Covid patients in the capital is also falling, down to 3,867 on Sunday, from 4,074 on the 5th of January, with 224 so ill that they are on ventilators, compared to 245 on the 6th.

The number of coronavirus patients in intensive care has been significantly lower than in previous waves, with a series of studies having shown Omicron to be milder than the Delta variant.

Around one third of Covid patients were admitted to hospital primarily for another health reason.

Dr Raghib Ali, clinical epidemiologist at Cambridge University, tweeted: “More good news on hospital admissions in England, with every region now falling or plateauing.

“It’s too soon to call the peak as cases over 60 still increasing nationally but these are also beginning to plateau (& are falling in London) so things are moving in right direction.”

Some experts say Omicron may be the start of Covid transforming from being a pandemic into an endemic disease such as flu, if future mutations are also milder.

However, while the Omicron wave may have peaked in London it could be plateauing for the moment at a still high level of infections.

The impact of the return to school and to the workplace after the festive season is also yet to be fully seen in the official figures which tend to be lower at weekends, though social mixing over New Year should now be evident in the data.

Testing backlogs may also have affected the figures.

However, more and more people getting their booster jab, as well as some having their first and second doses, and the fact that so many people have had Omicron is expected to squeeze the disease’s spread.

The evidence from South Africa suggests that once cases do start falling they could come down sharply, though, this is not yet happening in London, which might be due to increased social mixing into early January.

If cases do start to fall quickly, calls will grow for the working from home and other restrictions to be relaxed.

But London could find itself still being hampered economically by such measures if it emerges first from the Omicron wave and other regions are still being hard hit as the Government has adopted a nationwide approach to restrictions.

Watch: What is a Rapid Lateral Flow Test?

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