However, Phaahla also expressed concern about declining vaccination rates, suggesting that it may not just be that omicron is less virulent, but that vaccinations and natural immunity are adding to the protection from severe cases among the infected.
Young told CNBC that extrapolating from the experience in South Africa is “complicated by the younger average age of the infected individuals, their immune status and the fact that it’s summer in South Africa, and this may be influencing the spread of omicron.”
5. Antiviral drug developments
Another possible green shoot in the effort to constrain the impact of Covid has been advances in antiviral drug developments aimed at high-risk members of the population, such as the immunosuppressed or cancer patients.
Pfizer announced last week that its Paxlovid antiviral treatment was shown in second-stage trials to cut the risk of hospitalization or death in high-risk patients by 89% if administered within three days of symptom onset, and 88% within five days.
The U.K.’s medicines regulator also recently authorized the use of Xevudy (sotrovimab), a monoclonal antibody made by GlaxoSmithKline and Vir Biotechnology, and Lagevrio (molnupiravir), made by Ridgeback Biotherapeutics and Merck Sharp Dohme.
On Wednesday, the U.K. government confirmed that it had ordered an additional 2.5 million courses of Paxlovid and 1.75 million of Lagevrio for delivery over the course of 2022.
Hospital capacity at risk and unvaccinated still highly vulnerable
Altmann, the immunology professor at Imperial College London, warned against taking the current data at hand as reason to relinquish caution.
A crucial vulnerability, he and other professionals stress, remains the unvaccinated. Hospitalizations will be skewed towards the portion of the population who are unvaccinated or have had only one vaccine dose.
Looking at the U.K. specifically, he said: “At a time when NHS (National Health Service) are A) massively depleted by omicron and B) massively stretched and fatigued after two thankless years on the frontline, this would be untenable,” he said, adding that there were “no green shoots yet.”