Fewer Covid patients are requiring ventilation in hospital, data from London suggests, in a sign that the wave of infections driven by omicron is leading to less severe disease.
Data from the capital’s hospitals shows a lower rate of ventilation among the recent influx of Covid patients, as evidence builds that omicron, first detected in South Africa late last year, is milder than previous strains.
While the number of Covid patients in London hospitals increased from around 1,000 at the end of November to close to 3,000 by New Year’s Eve, the number in mechanical ventilation beds only increased from 175 to around 225.
That means the share of those on ventilators in the capital has dropped from around 20 per cent throughout the summer and autumn to less than eight per cent now.
Experts said the positive London data reflected wider evidence that omicron was leading to less severe outcomes for those infected.
“The lower rate of mechanical ventilation bed occupancy seems to be consistent across multiple European countries,” said Paul Hunter, professor of medicine at the University of East Anglia.
“There was also data from South Africa that showed that people admitted to hospital with omicron were still somewhat less likely to have a particularly bad outcome such as dying or being admitted to ITU [intensive therapy units].
“In terms of pressure on the NHS, a patient on an ITU bed takes up a lot more medical and nursing time than patients on an open ward. So the fact that MVB [mechanical ventilator beds] occupancy is not yet going up is certainly a hopeful sign.”