The proportion of hospital patients with Covid-19 admitted to intensive care fell dramatically during the Omicron wave last month, raising the prospect that the disease is no longer a major critical care issue.
A combination of the milder variant, the booster vaccine roll-out and better treatments, including antivirals, has radically reduced the need for Covid patients to need ventilation or other critical care.
It comes as the World Health Organisation’s Europe leader Dr Hans Kluge said yesterday that the continent was reaching the “plausible endgame” of the pandemic.
When the Delta strain was the dominant variant in November, about 9 per cent of patients with Covid were transferred to intensive care.
This fell to around 2 per cent in January, when Omicron had taken over as the dominant variant.
And of the 2 per cent who were admitted to critical care in January, around half were being treated for other illnesses as the main reason for hospital treatment, according to the report by the Intensive Care National Audit and Research Centre, whose figures cover England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
In November under Delta, and since the start of the pandemic, between 90 and 95 per cent of Covid patients in intensive care were being treated for Covid as the primary reason.
By January, under Omicron, this fell to below 50 per cent, with the other half receiving treatment for other primary illnesses.
As of 1 February, there were 483 people in intensive care with Covid, half the number in November and the lowest figure since early July.