Alain Berset tweeted that the Federal Council could quickly decide on tightening if more accurate data on Omikron became available. What do we know so far?
It’s only been five weeks since the new Sars-CoV2 variant Omikron was identified, and one of the first predictions has already come true. The number of cases is increasing rapidly in Switzerland and in many other countries. Thursday The Federal Office of Public Health (BAG) reported 19“032 new infections. On Wednesday, Federal Councilor Alain Berset wrote about the current situation on Twitter: “Hospitals will also increase. It is still unclear how many people will need IPS treatment.” Berset said the Federal Council could decide quickly, “if more accurate data on the Omicron risk become available.”
What is the current state of knowledge about the variable? Researchers from all over the world have provided preliminary studies at a phenomenal pace. However, important questions about the risks of Omikron for the elderly and for those who have not been vaccinated have not yet been fully clarified.
This is also due to data from those countries where Omikron has already been widely distributed in the past few weeks. These are countries with younger populations such as South Africa or countries with a high vaccination rate such as Denmark or Great Britain. Results cannot be transferred person to person to Switzerland.
Denmark and Great Britain have a similar population structure to Switzerland, but the vaccination and booster rate is higher in age groups 50 and over. This makes a difference. In Denmark, 96% of the population aged 50 years or over receives a dual vaccine, in Switzerland only 85%, about 90% of those over 65 years of age are already vaccinated, and in Switzerland only 62%.
There was good news on Tuesday for those who have been vaccinated and those who have recovered. new study From South Africa it is shown that the T-cell response, that is, the cellular immune response, is also maintained with Omikron. This gives hope that certain protection against severe cycles will remain, even if protection against infection is significantly reduced, especially in people who have had two doses of the vaccine. The booster guarantees – at least for a certain period – a higher level of protection.
There is a first glimmer of hope that Omikron infection can be somewhat milder overall. The infection is also considered mild if you lie in bed with a high fever for a week. However, some of the results of these studies come from laboratories and from animal models, and thus are of only limited relevance.
As the Scientific Task Force emphasized in its December 27 case report: “There is as yet no data on the severity of cycles in unvaccinated people.” At BAG’s media conference on Tuesday, Task Force Chair Tanya Stadler said, “According to preliminary findings, the gravity of progress is somewhere between delta and variable since the start of 2020”. Danish researchers also mentioned in oneSpeech Shortly before Christmas, to plan for the week ahead, one must assume that Omikron will offer courses similar to Delta.
At the same time, the risk of infection in unvaccinated people increased sharply. Since vaccination provides less protection against infection, the number of cases rises exponentially and the statistical probability of infection increases. For this reason, all experts stress the importance of wearing masks correctly again for the time being (i.e. no noses showing), distance, hygiene and minimizing contact.
There’s a new one on Wednesday study from Denmark, where the authors examined transmission in nearly 12,000 Danish families in December. The most important new discovery: The fact that Omikron spreads easily is mainly due to its ability to evade the immune response, and to a lesser extent, its ability to be highly infectious primarily. The authors also write: “We found higher rates of infection among unvaccinated people.”
With important questions still open, the Federal Reserve’s current wait-and-see strategy is fraught with danger. The task force also states: “It is important to emphasize that the potentially low hospitalization rate of omicron at the population level will be outweighed by the significantly increased prevalence.” So if a large number of people are infected at the same time, hospitals – even those with less severe illnesses in terms of number – are threatened with overload due to the sheer number of cases.
Alexandra Broome science journalist. She has taught at the University of Zurich and has been working for various newspapers for over 20 years, and has been an editor in the knowledge department of Tamedia editorial team since 2015. She has also authored a non-fiction book on reproductive medicine.