Omicron ‘First Ray of Light’ Toward COVID-19 Turning Endemic: UK Scientist

A girl receives a self-administered COVID-19 test kit at a screening center at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Medical Center Campus in South Los Angeles, Calif., on Dec. 27, 2021. (Robyn Beck/AFP via Getty Images)
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By Naveen Athrappully

A British doctor has forecast COVID-19 evolving to become less severe and endemic, and said the highly-transmissible but milder Omicron variant is the beginning of the process.

“The thing that might happen in the future is you may see the emergence of a new variant that is less severe, and ultimately, in the long-term, what happens is COVID becomes endemic and you have a less severe version. It’s very similar to the common cold that we’ve lived with for many years,” Dr. Mike Tildesley, a member of the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling (Spi-M) and a University of Warwick professor, told Times Radio on Saturday.

Tildesley said that the latest variant is different from the previous Delta strain, but that the time for normalcy has not been reached. “We’re not quite there yet, but possibly Omicron is the first ray of light there that suggests that may happen in the longer-term. It is, of course, much more transmissible than Delta was, which is concerning, but much less severe.”

Natural immunity has been found to offer better protection against the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus than the vaccines, according to an Israeli study involving around 5.7 million people. The theory is that a highly-transmissible version of the virus would infect people rapidly but leave behind a more resistant population.

Tildesley added: “Hopefully, as we move more towards the spring and we see the back of Omicron, we can get more inter-relationships of living with COVID as an endemic disease and protecting the vulnerable. Any variant that does emerge which is less severe, ultimately, in the longer term, is where we want to be.”

Tildesley pointed to the number of cases, which was flat-lining in the UK’s capital city London, and lower hospital admissions, as encouraging signs that the situation may be starting to turn around.

On Jan. 9, the number of new cases in England was 121,228 with a seven-day average of 140,256, which is an increase of over 200 percent from Dec. 14, when the spike began and the seven-day average was 45,489.

However, the number of deaths not only did not go up in proportion to the case counts, it actually went down. On Dec. 14, the number of deaths was 138, with a seven-day average of 95 in England, while on Jan. 9, it was 84, with a seven-day average of 164.

Similarly, in the United States there was an increase of more than 450 percent from Dec. 14, when the seven-day average was 119,379, and 668,497 on Jan. 7, while the number of deaths recorded a much smaller change from an average of 1,143 on Dec. 14 to 1,513 on Jan. 7.

“On the slightly more positive side, so it doesn’t sound all doom and gloom, what we are seeing from hospital admissions is that stays in hospital do appear to be on average shorter, which is good news, symptoms appear to be a little bit milder, so this is what we are seeing consistently with the Omicron variant,” Tildesley added.

According to preliminary studies, Omicron is much more likely to infect the throat compared to the lungs, which makes it less deadly, but more infectious. A preprint of an animal-based study conducted by researchers from the University of Liverpool’s Molecular Virology Research Group said that mice infected with Omicron lose less weight, experience milder pneumonia, and carry less viral loads.

“It’s one piece of the jigsaw,” professor James Stewart said, according to The Guardian. “The animal model does suggest that the disease is less severe than Delta and the original Wuhan virus. It seems to get cleared faster and the animals recovered more rapidly, and that ties in with clinical data coming through.

“The early indications are that it’s good news, but that’s not a signal to drop our guard, because if you’re clinically vulnerable, the consequences are still not great—there are deaths from Omicron. Not everyone can rip their masks off and party.”

Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the head of the World Health Organization, cautioned at a media briefing last month against terming the Omicron variant “mild.”

“We’re concerned that people are dismissing Omicron as mild. Surely, we have learned by now that we underestimate this virus at our peril. Even if Omicron does cause less severe disease, the sheer number of cases could once again overwhelm unprepared health systems,” he said.

Naveen Athrappully is a news reporter covering business and world events at The Epoch Times.

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