United States health experts anticipate that the Omicron variant will infect 60% of Americans within the first three months of 2022.
Researchers from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington expect the heavily mutated variant to result in 140 million cases between January and March, most of which they believe will be mild or asymptomatic cases.
The team’s prediction model suggest that the US could see as many as 2.8 million new cases a day by January.
“We are expecting an enormous surge in infections… so , an enormous spread of Omicron,” IHME director Dr. Chris Murray explained to USA Today.
“Total Infections in the U.S. we forecast are going from about 40 percent of the U.S. having been infected so far, to having in the next twoto three months, 60 percent of the U.S. getting infected with Omicron.”
Although the team is warning Americans to brace for a huge wave of infections, the maintained that Omicron will likely cause less deaths than previous versions of Covid-19, with their projections predicting 2,800 deaths a day in mid-February, 200 less than the amount in January 2021.
Fauci warns of bleak winter as Omicron is “raging through the world”
Top US pandemic adviser Anthony Fauci warned of a bleak winter ahead as the Omicron coronavirus variant spurs a new wave of infections globally, sparking restrictions and concerns over hospital capacity.
“One thing that’s very clear … is (Omicron’s) extraordinary capability of spreading,” Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told broadcaster NBC News on Sunday. “It is just … raging through the world.”
Omicron has been found in 77 countries less than one month after it was first officially reported. As it announced that figure last week, the WHO added, “the reality is that omicron is probably in most countries, even if it hasn’t been detected yet.”
Despite some preliminary indications, Omicron is not more severe than the Delta variant – which is still the dominant strain. The heavily-mutated Omicron has been shown in early data to have some resistance to vaccines and higher transmissibility, the American scientist said.
Fauci also cautioned against too much optimism over Omicron’s severity, noting that in South Africa, while the hospitalization-to-case ratio is lower than with Delta, this could be due to the general public’s underlying immunity from widespread previous infections.
Fauci gave the warnings as two US Senators, Democrats Elizabeth Warren, 72, and Cory Booker, 52, said they had tested positive for the virus.
Almost 73% of the entire US population has received at least one Covid vaccination, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). So far, almost 30% have had a booster shot.
The latest CDC estimates suggest the Omicron variant accounts for about 3% of current cases in the US, most of which have been recorded in the state of New York.
Lockdowns, travel restrictions due to variant’s spread
Countries all over the world are tightening measures as the heavily mutated variant spreads.
In a measure that went into effect on Sunday, travelers to Greece must show a negative rapid test taken within 24 hours of their journey or a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours of their trip, before entering the country.
France and Germany are among other European nations to issue travel restrictions and the Netherlands has imposed a strict lockdown over Christmas.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte announced late Saturday night that all non-essential businesses and services, like restaurants, museums, salons, and gyms, will be closed starting Sunday. They are expected to reopen on January 14. Schools will be closed until January 9.