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COVID-19: ‘Entirely possible’ Omicron hospitalisations could exceed record set in January – Whitty

England’s chief medical officer has said it is “entirely possible” that the number of daily hospitalisations because of the Omicron variant could exceed the record set for COVID in January.

Appearing before MPs on the health committee, Professor Chris Whitty was asked if the previous peak – 4,583 – could be exceeded.

He replied: “It is possible – because this is going to be very concentrated – that even if it is milder, because it’s concentrated over a short period of time, you could end up with a higher number than that going into hospital on a single day – that is entirely possible.”

But he added that it may be fewer than than, and there are still “huge uncertainties”.

Prof Whitty said the time people spend in hospital is an important indicator of pressure on the NHS.

He explained: “One of the things that really matters to the NHS is how long people stay.

“If, for example, people stay in hospital for a shorter period, because they’re protected by prior vaccination, that means that the total number could still be lower even if the peak number per day is higher.”

He added that the “whole point” about Omicron is that it is “going to be really concentrated in a very short period of time, very possibly”.

There are currently 15 people being treated in hospital with Omicron, Dr Susan Hopkins said at the meeting.

The UK Health Security Agency’s (UKHSA) chief medical adviser added: “The numbers we released yesterday are 15. However, we are constantly working on data linkage to improve that, and we will release new numbers this afternoon.”

Professor Whitty clarified: “But the real number will be much bigger than that. That is simply the number who are proven, just to be clear.”

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