Omicron’s rapid takeover has left most of us feeling pretty deflated – at best – about the coming months.
Worries about further restrictions, another lockdown and the variant’s major threat to general public health have already overshadowed this festive period.
But it’s not all bad. Here are five snippets of good Covid-related news that might have slipped under your radar.
1. More than two thirds of eligible adult population have now been boosted
Prime minister Boris Johnson wanted every eligible adult to be offered a booster shot before the end of the year, a target denounced as overly ambitious when it was first revealed.
Now, 25,130,453 people who had their second dose more than three months ago have already been boosted in England.
More than 1.5 million boosters were also reported across Saturday and Sunday, making the booster campaign the most successful vaccine drive in the health service’s history.
2. Registered deaths fall to the lowest level in two months
Despite the surge in Omicron cases, Covid deaths have dropped.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has revealed that weekly registered deaths linked to Covid in England and Wales have fallen to a rate lower than those seen in October.
According to the ONS, there were 764 deaths in the week leading up to 10 December with “novel coronavirus” on the death certificate.
This equates to 6.4% of all deaths registered over that seven-day period. This is a decrease from the previous week, when 792 deaths were recorded.
It also meant these latest figures are the lowest since 15 October, when there were 713 recorded Covid deaths.
However, these numbers do not reflect the impact from Omicron just yet. There is always a two-to-three week lag between infection and hospitalisations, and the new variant only swept into the UK at the beginning of the month.
3. Possible signs of Covid plateauing in the UK
So, despite the high transmissibility of Omicron, cases may have reached their peak in Britain.
However, the exact reason behind the plateauing cases is unclear. Experts have pointed to a potential reduction of tests being taken, the booster taking effect, or the new measures introduced have led the public to be more cautious.
It is also still too early to predict if Omicron has actually reached its highest levels in the UK.
4. A positive picture is emerging from South Africa
Omicron was first reported in the South African province of Gauteng back on 24 November, and yet case numbers already appear to be dropping off.
South Africa hit a peak close to 27,000 daily cases last Thursday. On Tuesday, this had dropped to 15,000 cases.
The highly transmissible variant is estimated to account for 90% of Covid cases in Gauteng since mid-November – but cases there peaked at 16,000 on 12 December and have since dropped to 3,300 on Tuesday.
Speaking to Associated Press, the senior researcher at the Vaccines and Infectious Diseases Analytics department from the South African University of Witwatersrand, Marta Nunes, said: “It was a short wave...and the good news is that it was not very severe in terms of hospitalisations and deaths.”
He explained: “The amount of immunity for this wave [in South Africa is] because of a prior Delta wave and vaccination is far higher than it was for their last wave and, therefore, the fact they have a lower hospitalisation rate this time is unsurprising.
“That doesn’t mean there is some degree of milder disease — that is possible — but I think there is a danger that people have over-interpreted this to say this is not a problem and there’s nothing to worry about. I want to be clear, I am afraid [Omicron] is going to be a problem.”