Scientists are watching for signs that the alarming wave of cases of the variant omicron of coronavirus could have peaked in Britain, and is about to do the same in U.S, which means that infections could start to decrease dramatically.
The reason: The variant has proven so contagious that it may already 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 went up,” said Ali Mokdad, a professor of sanimetry at the University of Washington, Seattle campus.
But at the same time, experts warned that there is still a lot of uncertainty about how the next phase of the pandemic will unfold. Stagnation or decline in the two countries is not happening everywhere at the same time or at the same rate. And there are still weeks or months of suffering ahead for patients and hospitals, even if the decline occurs.
“There are still many people who will become infected as the curve goes down,” said Lauren Ancel Meyers, director of the University of Texas COVID-19 Modeling Consortium, which predicts that reported cases of coronavirus will peak in the over the next week.
According to the influential model from the University of Washington, the number of daily cases reported in the United States will peak at 1.2 million on January 19 and then drop sharply “because everyone who could get it will already be,” according to Mokdad.
In fact, he said, according to the university’s complex calculations, the actual number of new cases in the United States – an estimate that includes people who did not undergo a test – has already peaked, registering 6 million per year. January 6th.
Meanwhile, in Britain new cases fell to about 140,000 a day in the past week, after rising to more than 200,000 a day at the beginning of the month, according to government data.
On Tuesday, the World Health Organization (WHO) He said that there have been seven million new cases of COVID-19 in Europe in the last week, noting that it was an “avalanche that devastates the region.” The WHO cited the model of the Mokdad group that predicts that half of the population of the European continent will contract omicron within about eight weeks.
However, Dr. Paul Hunter, professor of medicine at the University of East Anglia in Britain, and other experts predict that by then the world will have overcome the omicron outbreak.
“There will probably be some ups and downs along the way, but I would hope that by Easter we are out of this,” Hunter said.
Still, the sheer number of infected people could be overwhelming for healthcare systems, said Dr. Prabhat Jha of the Center for Global Health Research at St. Michael’s Hospital. “The next few weeks are going to be brutal because, in absolute numbers, there are so many infected people that it will spread to ICUs,” Jha said.
Mokdad also warned that in the United States “it’s going to be two or three very tough weeks. We have to make tough decisions to let certain essential workers continue working, knowing that they could be infectious. “
Omicron could one day be seen as a tipping point in the pandemic, said Meyers of the University of Texas. The immunity acquired by all the new infections, along with the new drugs and vaccination, could make the coronavirus something we can live with more easily.
“At some point, we can draw a line – and omicron could be that line – where we go from what is a catastrophic global threat to something that is a much more manageable disease,” Meyers said.
That’s a plausible future, he said, but there is also the possibility of a new variant emerging, far worse than the omicron.
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