A leading epidemiologist from the University of Melbourne has come forward and says that he is now ‘convinced’ that the Omicron strain of Covid is ‘less virulent than Delta’.
Tony Blakely spoke to 3AW breakfast about the emergence of Omicron and what it means for Australia.
“I think it’s quite low on virulence,” said Blakely. “How much less virulent? The South Africans say it’s only 10% - tenfold reduction on Delta – and the Brits are saying it might be 70%.”
Blakely has been looking at the international data sets on the spread of Covid compared to the earlier version of Delta blamed for sending more people to hospital than the original Covid strain.
“I’ve been tracking through all the international data – we are not seeing an uptick in hospitalisation rates in the UK and US in the data I can pull down – and we’re not seeing an up-kick in New South Wales. Now, it’s still a little bit early to say it’s really, really mild, but it’s clear to me, at least, that it is less virulent.”
As it remains early days for the outbreak in Australia, experts like Blakely have been watching data gathered from the UK where the strain appeared shortly after being discovered in Africa.
“I think we are somewhere between 10-50% the virulence of Delta and I think we can actually get that virulence down ever lower with boosters. With that said, I’m not saying change our policy settings at this point in time.
“Let’s wait until that period at the beginning of January to make more definitive calls, but I am optimistic and hopeful that Omicron is not going to be bad on the virulence side.”
Blakely reminded listeners that Omicron was still proficient at spreading through the population.
“It’s certainly bad on the infectivity side – you can see a state like New South Wales or Victoria heading up to 10,000 and 15,000 cases a day – and at some level of cases you will stretch the health system, but that’s not going to be at the same level as Delta.”