This week, 164,333 new Covid-19 cases were reported in Switzerland, up 16% from the 142,085 cases reported a week earlier. Given the high contagiousness of the Omicron variant, which now dominates (84%) in Switzerland, and how mild the symptoms often are, the real number of cases could be significantly higher.
This week, 418 people were hospitalised with Covid-19 in Switzerland, slightly below the level reported the week before, although the latest figures are likely to rise once data collection catches up with reality. ICU capacity is running at 77% of capacity with Covid-19 patients occupying around 30% of total capacity. Across the week, 89 Covid-19 related deaths were reported.
The Omicron variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus is spreading quickly. On Tuesday, Dr Hans Kluge, WHO Regional Director for Europe, said that the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) forecasts that more than 50% of Europe’s population will be infected with Omicron in the next 6–8 weeks at the current rate.
Kluge said that he is deeply concerned that as the variant moves east, we have yet to see its full impact in countries where levels of vaccination uptake are lower. In Denmark, where Omicron cases have exploded in recent weeks, the Covid-19 hospitalisation rate for unvaccinated patients was 6-fold higher than for those who were fully vaccinated in the week over Christmas. He urged people to get vaccinated, including boosters.
The rapid spread of Omicron should eventually leave less scope for the variant to spread. This had led many to try to predict when case numbers might peak. In the UK, data from the ZOE project show a 12% fall in case numbers compared to last week, suggesting infections may have already hit a peak there. The data suggest cases peaked earlier in mid-December 2021 in London.
In addition, the number of Covid-19 deaths in the UK has remained relatively low throughout the Omicron wave. This may be due to very high levels of immunity. Epidemiologist Tim Spector presents data that show that less than 2% of England’s population 15 or over are without immunity. Close to 90% of this group has had at least one dose of vaccine and the majority of the unvaccinated have been infected. This ‘immunity wall’ is cutting disease severity, thinks Spector.
The data presented also show how the symptoms have shifted towards those of a cold. The most recent data for January 2022 show that 52% of those with cold-like symptoms in the UK had Covid-19. The data also suggest that the period of illness may be shorter with Omicron than Delta, according to Spector.