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OPINION - Omicron: Even The Good News Seems Bad

·2-min read
 (West End Final)
(West End Final)

Would you like to hear something that sounds like good news but may be swamped by the bad? Early data from South Africa finds that the Omicron variant may lead to a less severe illness than first feared.

Preliminary data from the Steve Biko and Tshwane District Hospital Complex in Pretoria showed that on December 2 only nine of the 42 patients on the Covid ward were being treated for the virus and were in need of oxygen.

The remainder of the patients, all of whom were unvaccinated, had tested positive but were asymptomatic and being treated for other conditions, data from the South African Medical Research Council found.

Milder symptoms are certainly better than the alternative, and I don’t want to be one of the men of the internet who goes ‘heyyy actually that good news is bad for reasons, tweet 1/59’. However...

It is also becoming clearer that Omicron is more transmissible than Delta. Professor Neil Ferguson told The Times that data “suggests a doubling time of three days or less” for Omicron. Boris Johnson told his Cabinet as much today.

A more transmissible virus, even with less severe symptoms, still has the ability to drive many more hospitalisations and swamp healthcare systems in this country and around the world. It is simple mathematics.

The hope is of course that with 81 per cent of Brits double vaccinated and more than one-third having received a booster, we can avoid that eventuality.

Elsewhere in the paper, the Trafalgar Square Christmas tree could be replaced. Oslo Council is set to vote on whether to send a new tree after people took to social media to complain parts of the one gifted this year were missing.

However, the opposition leader of the Conservative Party in Oslo, Anne Haabeth Rygg said she was worried a new tree wouldn’t arrive in time. How is this not a straight to Netflix Christmas caper starring Jennifer Aniston and Will Ferrell?

In the comment pages, Matthew d’Ancona writes that an office Christmas party might foreshadow the Prime Minister’s fall, because while voters are not shocked by lies, hypocrisy is a different matter.

Meanwhile, City Editor Oscar Williams-Grut warns SSE’s management to be wary of activist investor Elliott Advisors’ blasting tanks.

Finally – and my only regret is I could not quite bring myself to lead with it – via the world-famous Londoner’s Diary: Andrew Neil tells Jennifer Arcuri he’ll take legal action over her tweet falsely alleging links between him and paedophile Jeffrey Epstein.

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