OMICRON: a tale of two narratives

OMICRON: a tale of two narratives

Don’t expect this to be broadcast from the rooftops!

South Africa: Only 1.7% Hospitalised From Omicron

Compared to 19% during previous wave.

South African Health Minister Joe Phaahla said today that only 1.7% of COVID cases in the current Omicron wave are being hospitalised compared to 19% in the previous wave and that the vast majority of cases are “fairly mild.”

“In the current wave, only 1.7% of Covid cases are being hospitalized, an average of fewer than 350 cases daily over the past two weeks, versus an average of more than 800 in the previous wave, at an average of 19%,” reports Business Tech based on Phaahla’s statement.

Gauteng, the province that includes Johannesburg, has also seen a decline in positivity rate to 25%, meaning the Omicron wave could be past its peak in that region.

According to the data, hospitalisations are also lower across all age ranges, contradicting claims in the UK that it would be hit harder due to its older population.

As we highlighted yesterday, Phaahla said rates of hospitalisations and deaths remain “relatively low,” adding that there was no need to raise the restriction level and telling South Africans to enjoy their Christmas.

Such good news isn’t apparently welcome to governments in the UK, which continue to impose more draconian measures which have served to all but cancel Christmas, despite the fact that just 15 people have been hospitalised with Omicron and just one person has died.

In England, Professor Chris Whitty appears to be ignoring data out of South Africa to make doomsday predictions about there being over 4,000 hospitalisations a day from Omicron.

There is also a continuing obsession with insisting it is “too early” to make judgments on data coming out of South Africa despite such data for weeks confirming that Omicron is mild and isn’t causing hospitals to be overwhelmed.

Meanwhile, Neil Ferguson is at it again!

Prof Lockdown Neil Ferguson warns of 5,000 Omicron deaths a DAY unless tighter restrictions return ‘in a week or two’ as London’s hospitalisations rise a third in a week, UK daily infections soar 60% to 93,000 and variant becomes dominant strain nationally

  • Professor Neil Ferguson’s team at Imperial warned: ‘Omicron poses a major, imminent threat to public health’ 
  • Dubbed ‘Professor Lockdown’ for gloomy predictions in past, he called for more lockdown curbs in fortnight 
  • Wales has already announced the return of social distancing and closure of nightclubs from Boxing Day
  • Scots urged to limit mixing to three households and people in England are advised to ‘prioritise’ social events

Under-fire Rishi scrambles back to UK for crisis talks with pubs, restaurants and business chiefs as Britain’s workforce stays at home, London’s roads fall to their quietest since SUMMER, train stations are almost empty and drinkers abandon city centres

  • Isolating staff and plunging consumer confidence cause pubs and restaurants to shut early for Christmas
  • TomTom reports 8am-9am London congestion level of 49% today as workers shun going into the office 
  • Lowest figure for that period since the end of the summer holidays on September 3, excluding half-term  
  • Photographs show major stations looking empty and normally-bustling areas appearing to be very quiet
  • Number of commuters travelling on the London Underground this morning falls 31 per cent week-on-week 
  • Chris Whitty has called for limits on socialising despite PM insisting festive plans should not be cancelled

Meanwhile, in New Zealand, Ashley Bloomfield has to get in on the act and the New Zealand media have to amplify the fear mongering. 

Covid-19: Three more Omicron cases reported in MIQ

Three new cases of the Omicron Covid-19 variant have been reported in New Zealand’s managed isolation system, with none of them connected to yesterday’s first case.

The first case was recorded in a Christchurch MIQ facility yesterday.

This evening the Ministry of Health confirmed in a statement that whole genome sequencing has detected three further Omicron cases in recent international arrivals.

“The cases arrived in Auckland from Dubai on December 11 and were transported to a Rotorua MIQ on a bus chartered for international arrivals.”

The Ministry said one case travelled to Dubai from London, the second case travelled to Dubai from Spain and the third travelled to Dubai from Nigeria. All three then boarded the same flight to Auckland.

The cases are now isolating at the Jet Park Quarantine facility in Auckland.

Bloomfield to speak to minister about changes to vaccine booster programme

 17 December 2021 

While it’s not inevitable Omicron will leak into the community, Dr Ashley Bloomfield says he will be speaking to ministers today about speeding up the vaccine booster rollout.

New Zealand’s first case of Omicron was reported yesterday after it was found a person who tested positive for Covid-19 in a Christchurch managed isolation facility had the variant.

The person arrived in New Zealand on a flight from Germany via Dubai that landed in Auckland before they transferred to Christchurch on a chartered domestic flight.

Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield told Morning Report the person was vaccinated with two doses of the Pfizer vaccine and is doing well.

“Pfizer does afford protection against this variant which is really good however it does seem that a third dose, that booster dose, is really important to get that level of protection up to about 80 – I think it’s 85 percent protection against even symptomatic disease, and of course an even higher level of protection from hospitalisation or death.”

Currently a booster dose was offered six months after someone had received their second dose of the vaccine.

Some health experts were calling for the booster to be available more quickly – something Bloomfield would be speaking to ministers about today.

“We want to be going into winter next year with the highest possible level of population immunity and so far in rolling out our booster programme we’ve seen at that six month interval, about half of people are booking in and having it at six months and it may well be we need a shorter interval to make sure people do get it on time.”

Ninety percent of eligible New Zealanders were now fully vaccinated.

Covid-19 pandemic could extend until 2024 as vaccine data for children aged 2-4 delayed – Pfizer

Pfizer forecasts that the Covid-19 pandemic will not be behind us until 2024 and says a lower-dose version of its vaccine for 2-4 year olds generated a weaker immune response than expected, potentially delaying authorisation.

The company said it is testing a three-dose course of the vaccine in all age groups under 16, including 2-4 year olds.

It had previously expected data from that age group this year, but said it did not expect the delay would meaningfully change plans to file for emergency use authorisation in the second quarter of 2022.

“The data are illustrating the impact of a booster and that our vaccine works best as a primary regimen of three doses,” Chief Scientific Officer Mikael Dolsten said on a conference call.

Pfizer developed the vaccine with Germany’s BioNTech SE. The companies has been developing a version of their vaccine tailored to combat the quick-spreading Omicron variant, although they have not decided whether it will be needed.

They expect to start a clinical trial for the updated vaccine in January, Pfizer executives said.

The company said it currently expects the vaccine to generate revenue of $31 billion next year. Variant-specific shots, if needed, could boost sales in 2022.

Pfizer and BioNTech tested a 3 microgram dose of its vaccine in 2-5 year olds after using a 10 microgram dose in 5-11 year olds and 30 microgram doses in everyone over 12.

In children aged 6 to 24 months, the low-dose version of the vaccine generated an immune response consistent with that of older vaccine recipients, the company said.

If the three-dose study is successful, Pfizer and BioNTech expect to submit data to regulators to support an Emergency Use Authorization for children six months to under five years of age in the first half of 2022.

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