NEWS

Experts say new Covid variant less severe, caution against infecting the elderly

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The spread of the highly transmissible, if milder, Omicron variant of the coronavirus is creating a new reality, whereby the slightest symptom, such as a blocked nose or a scratchy throat, will be considered to be a likely symptom of Covid-19.

In just nine days, from December 20 to 29, the number of new daily infections has skyrocketed from 3,689 to a record, for the pandemic, 28,828, with the Omicron variant prevailing, by far.

The new variant has primarily affected the young, so far. An analysis of new cases from December 23 to 29 shows that 16.3% of the newly ill were up to 17 years old, 53.9% were 18-39, 24.93% were 40-64 and 4.87% were over 65.

We keep adding to our knowledge of Omicron every day, but what we know so far is that Omicron is a milder Covid-19 variant than Delta. The likelihood of hospitalization from Omicron is 50-70% lower than with Delta, although scientists caution that this remains to be confirmed by data specific to Greece.

“What we know for certain is that the Omicron variant is much more infectious and can easily prevail over Delta,” said Dimitris Paraskevis, an associate professor of epidemiology and preventive medicine at the University of Athens. What facilitates that is Omicron’s shorter timelapse between a person’s infection and their transmitting the virus to others, which is two days on average, compared to Delta’s 3.5 days. Omicron also affects people who have previously been infected by the virus and fallen sick or been fully vaccinated more easily. But, since these people have already developed antibodies, the symptoms are milder.

Other experts recommend that people get tested if the slightest symptoms appear. Even if the test is negative, it must be repeated 48 hours later; preferably, the second test, at least, should be molecular.

A positive person should be isolated, have their temperature and blood oxygen levels frequently monitored, and take anti-fever drugs if their temperature rises.

What experts also worry about is the possibility of the change in the age profile of Covid cases, if the young start to infect the old. On Wednesday, Health Minister Thanos Plevris pleaded with those who have developed symptoms to keep away from the festive New Year’s Eve dinner “regardless of the test results.”