US COVID cases may start to drop suddenly as omicron waves peak

NEW YORK – Scientists are seeing signals that the alarming omicron wave COVID-19 may have peaked in the UK and is imminent in the US, at which point cases could be began to drop suddenly.

The reason: This variant has proven so contagious that it may have run out of people to infect, just a month and a half after it was first detected in South Africa.

“It’s going to go down as fast as it goes up,” said Ali Mokdad, professor of health measurement science at the University of Washington in Seattle.

At the same time, experts warn that there is still much uncertainty about how the next phase of the pandemic might unfold. The ups and downs of two countries do not happen everywhere at the same time or at the same pace. And weeks or months of misery still lie ahead for patients and overwhelm hospitals even after visits have passed.

“There are still a lot of people that will get infected as we go downhill behind,” said Lauren Ancel Meyers, director of the University of Texas COVID-19 Modeling Consortium.

THAN: US hospitals strain with patient flow amid latest COVID spike, staffing shortages

According to Mokdad, the number of daily reported cases in the US will reach 1.2 million by January 19 and then plummet “simply because everyone who might be infected will be infected.” “, according to Mokdad.

In fact, according to complicated university calculations, the true number of daily new infections in the US – which is estimated to include people who have never been tested – has peaked, reaching 6. million on January 6.

Meanwhile, in the UK, the number of new COVID-19 infections fell to around 140,000 a day last week, after skyrocketing to more than 200,000 a day earlier this month, according to government data.

Figures from the UK’s National Health Service this week showed the number of adult coronavirus hospital admissions has begun to decline, with infection rates falling across all age groups.

Kevin McConway, a retired professor of applied statistics at the UK’s Open University, said that while COVID-19 cases were still increasing in places like the southwest of England and the West Midlands, the outbreak was development may have peaked in London.

The figures have raised hopes that the two countries are about to experience something similar to what happened in South Africa, where in about a month the wave reached a record high and then dropped dramatically. .

Dr Paul Hunter, professor of medicine, said: “We are seeing some clear reductions in cases in the UK, but I would like to see them fall much more before we know if what has happened. in South Africa is happening here or not”. at the UK’s University of East Anglia.

Dr David Heymann, who formerly led the World Health Organization’s infectious diseases department, said Britain was “the closest country to any country out of a pandemic”, adding that COVID-19 is gradually becoming an endemic disease.

Differences between Britain and South Africa, including Britain’s aging population and the tendency of people to stay indoors more in winter, could mean a stronger outbreak for this and other countries. .

SEE MORE: New COVID cases in South Africa, once at the forefront of the omicron wave, drop rapidly

On the other hand, the decision of the British authorities to impose minimal restrictions on omicrons could allow the virus to enter the population and run its course much faster than Western European countries impose such measures. stricter COVID-19 control measures, such as France, Spain, and Italy.

Shabir Mahdi, dean of the department of health sciences at South Africa’s University of the Witwatersrand, said European countries that imposed a mechanical lockdown would not necessarily experience the omicron wave with fewer infections; cases can be spread out over a longer period.

On Tuesday, the World Health Organization said there were 7 million new COVID-19 cases across Europe in the past week, calling it a “tidal wave that swept across the region.” WHO cites modeling from Mokdad’s team that predicts half of Europe’s population will be infected with omicrons within about eight weeks.

By that time, however, Hunter and others hope the world will get over the omicron increase.

“There will probably be some ups and downs along the way, but I’m hopeful that by Easter we’ll get out of this,” Hunter said.

Prabhat Jha of the Center for Global Health Research at St. The number of infected people can be overwhelming for fragile health systems, said Michael of Toronto.

“The next few weeks are going to be brutal because of the sheer number of people infected that it’s going to flood the ICUs,” said Jha.

Mokdad also warned in the US: “It’s going to be a difficult two or three weeks. We have to make the difficult decision to keep some essential workers at work, knowing they could be infected.”

Meyers, at the University of Texas, said Omicron could one day be seen as the turning point of the pandemic. The acquired immunity from all new infections, along with new drugs and continued vaccinations, could make coronavirus something with which we can coexist more easily.

“At the end of this wave, there will be more people infected with some variant of COVID,” Meyers said. “At some point, we’ll be able to draw a line – and the omicron could be that point – where we transition from a catastrophic global threat to a much more manageable disease.”

That’s a reasonable future, she said, but there’s also the chance that a new variant – one worse than omicron – emerges.


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Dais Johnston

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