"Far too early" to conclude Omicron variant is milder than Delta, says CMO 1 month ago

"Far too early" to conclude Omicron variant is milder than Delta, says CMO

NPHET currently believes the new variant will "transmit more easily", Tony Holohan has said.

Chief Medical Officer (CMO) Dr Tony Holohan has said it is "far too early" to conclude that the Omicron variant of Covid-19 is milder than the Delta strain.


The CMO made the comments on Wednesday evening (1 December) after the first case of Omicron was confirmed in Ireland.

Also on Wednesday, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) said that 15 additional cases of the new variant of concern have been confirmed in European Union (EU) and European Economic Area (EEA) countries, bringing the total to 59 confirmed cases.

However. the ECDC also reported that all Omicron cases in EU and EEA countries for which there is available information on severity were either "asymptomatic or mild".

"To date, there have been no severe cases and no deaths reported among these cases," it said.

Appearing on Virgin Media News, the CMO was asked if there was any indication that Omicron is milder than Delta at this stage.

"Those things have been reported but I think it's far too early to draw such conclusions," Holohan replied.

"Some of those reports are based on initial observations in cases among university students who almost by definition of what we know of this disease are going to have a milder infection.


"It's much too early for us unfortunately to draw such conclusions.

"Of course, we all hope that would be the situation, but at the moment we believe it will have a transmission advantage - in other words, it will transmit more easily.

"There may well be an implication in terms of how well the vaccines work for this disease and there may well be an implication in terms of at least the same level of severity and we can't conclude on that.

"So, from our point of view, the precautionary approach [is] that we assume that this will be more transmissible, we assume that the vaccines won't work as well, we assume that the infection will be at least as severe as Delta is and we build our public health actions based on those assumptions."

Earlier on Wednesday, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen outlined the "severe double challenge" the EU is facing with the resurgence of the Delta and the new Omicron variant.


In regards to Omicron, she said the European Commission did not know everything about the strain yet but said it knows "enough to be concerned", citing the variant's multiple mutations.

Von der Leyen added that Europe's best scientists were working day and night to learn more about the variant, before stating that full vaccination and boosters provide the strongest protection against Covid that is available now.

Meanwhile, the Health Protection Surveillance Centre on Wednesday was notified of 3,793 confirmed cases of Covid-19.

As of 8am today, 578 Covid-19 patients are hospitalised, of which 117 are in ICU.


There has been a total of 5,707 deaths related to Covid-19 notified in Ireland, including 55 deaths newly notified in the past week since last Wednesday.

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