The omicron variant infects around 70 times faster than delta and the original Covid-19 strain, though the severity of illness is likely to be much lower, according to a University of Hong Kong study that adds weight to the early on-ground observations from South African doctors.
The supercharged speed of omicron’s spread in the human bronchus was found 24 hours following infection, according to a Wednesday statement from the university. The study, conducted by a team of researchers led by Michael Chan Chi-wai, found that the newest variant of concern replicated less efficiently — more than 10 times lower — in the human lung tissue than the original strain which may signal “lower severity of disease.”
The study, which suggests that omicron jumps faster from one person to another but doesn’t damage lung tissues as much as its predecessor strains did, is currently under peer review for publication in a scientific journal.
Early observations have shown that most patients don’t need oxygen or intensive treatment for the illness but many public health experts and bodies, including the World Health Organization, have urged caution.