Why Mark Drakeford thinks the debate about the severity of Omicron ‘misses the point’
The argument that Omicron is a milder disease and therefore doesn’t need restrictions to mitigate against it “misses the point” according to the First Minister.
Mark Drakeford said that because the variant was transmitting much more rapidly than Delta, even if it was half as severe it would only buy the NHS 48 hours, as that is the amount of time it takes for Omicron infections to double.
He was responding to the leader of the Welsh Conservatives in the Senedd who said that the Welsh Government should be clear as to whether the restrictions were being imposed due to the severity of illness or the sickness rates it would cause in key services.
“Because I do think it’s important that we do understand how the evolving evidence is showing that omicron doesn’t seem to have the impact that the delta virus has had in the second and third wave that we’ve seen of this terrible virus,” Andrew RT Davies said.
Mark Drakeford responded that the “debate about the severity of omicron does miss the point”.
“The sheer numbers of people who will fall ill with the omicron variant means that even if it were to be less severe, that will not stop the huge increase in demand that there may be there on people falling ill,” he said.
“One of the deputy chief medical officers for England explained it at a COBRA meeting in this way, that if omicron was only half as severe as delta, that buys you 48 hours in terms of the impact that omicron will have on our public services.
“So, it’s a sort of secondary issue, rather than the top-line issue, which is the transmissibility of omicron, and I don’t think that the evidence as it’s being reported in some newspapers today is quite as straightforward as they are making out.
“I add a normal caveat here, which I know the leader of the opposition will understand, that new evidence is emerging every day.
“But the evidence I have seen so far is: if you’ve had coronavirus already, then omicron may have a less severe impact on you if you are re-infected. But if you’re getting coronavirus for the first time and your first dose of it is omicron, it’s likely to be just as severe as any other earlier form of the variant.”
The U.K. Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said today that Britons who fall ill with the Omicron variant of the coronavirus are less likely to become severely sick than those who contract Delta.
But they warned that Omicron was not necessarily mild enough to avoid large numbers of hospitalizations.