UK studies suggest omicron milder than delta

Two British studies indicate that omicron could be more mild than delta even though the new variant is spreading faster than its predecessor.

The Imperial College London COVID-19 response team's analysis found that people infected with omicron were about 20 percent less likely to be hospitalized and roughly 40 percent less likely to be hospitalized for a night or more. The analysis included 56,000 cases of omicron and 269,000 cases of delta, according to The Associated Press.

Scientists at the University of Edinburgh along with other experts, meanwhile, also said their study indicated that omicron patients were two-thirds less likely to be hospitalized than those infected with delta, the AP reported.

"This national investigation is one of the first to show that Omicron is less likely to result in COVID-19 hospitalization than Delta," the authors of that study said, calling the early results "encouraging."

"Cautious optimism is perhaps the best way to look at this," Manuel Ascano Jr., a Vanderbilt University biochemist said of the findings, noting that the situation is rapidly changing and other countries might not have the same results, according to the AP.

Infections in South Africa, where omicron was first detected last month, have been seemingly more mild as well.

"Our overall admission rate is in the region of around 2% to 4% compared to previously, where it was closer to 20 percent," Salim Abdool Karim, a clinical infectious disease epidemiologist in South Africa, told the news service. "So even though we're seeing a lot of cases, very few are being admitted."

The omicron variant is now the dominant strain in the United States as cities across the country from Washington, D.C., to San Francisco have seen spikes in COVID-19 infections.