Almost twice the number of coronavirus patients could be admitted to hospital compared to last year due to the Omicron variant, new modelling suggests.
Experts from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) have calculated figures which propose that a large wave of infections could occur over the next few months if tougher Covid measures are not brought in.
The study projects a median peak of 7,190 daily hospital admissions in England in the worst case scenario – which could see the variant evading vaccines at a high rate as well as low effectiveness against the variant from boosters.
The most optimistic scenario (low rate of the variant evading vaccines, high effectiveness of boosters) “is projected to lead to peak daily hospital admissions around 60% as high as the peak in January 2021 in England”.
This would mean a median peak of 2,410 daily admissions compared to 3,800 daily admissions in January this year, the study said.
In their remarks, the authors said: “The most pessimistic scenario is projected to peak at approximately twice the height (7,190 daily admissions) of the January 2021 peak.”
Two other scenarios considered by the authors project peaks in hospital admissions between these two extremes, at a median peak of 4,350 for the low immune escape, low booster efficacy scenario and 4,500 for the high immune escape, high booster efficacy scenario.
They also calculated how effective stringent measures would be if the Government decided to return to the road map out of lockdown stages.
“Under the optimistic scenario, our model projects that Step 2 measures reduce hospitalisations by 53,000, that Step 1 measures reduce hospitalisations by 91,400 and that Step 0 measures reduce hospitalisations by 104,900 between December 1 2021 and April 30 2022 in England, compared with the current Plan B policy,” the authors added.
“Under the pessimistic scenario, Step 2 reduces hospitalisations by 160,000, Step 1 reduces hospitalisations by 282,000 and Step 0 reduces hospitalisations by 320,000 between December 1 2021 and April 30 2022 in England, compared with the current Plan B policy.
“In general, the models project a larger exit wave for those scenarios with more stringent control measures enacted during December 2021–April 2022.”
The study has not yet been peer-reviewed.
The road map – published in February – saw England slowly emerging from lockdown after people were told to stay at home for several months. Restrictions began easing in England from March 8 and life returned largely to normal in July.
Step 0 saw only essential businesses remaining open while the rest of the country was in lockdown.
Step 1 saw schools reopening and step 2 saw non-essential retail and personal care, including hairdressers and nail salons, reopen.
According to UK Government figures, the peak day for patients admitted to hospital with Covid-19 in England was January 12, with 4,134 patients.
Just under a week later, the number of patients in hospital with Covid-19 hit its peak with 34,336.