Omicron triggering surge in Covid reinfections
The Omicron variant appears to have driven a spike in Covid-19 reinfections in the UK, with more people suffering from the disease for a second time over the past six weeks than the previous 18 months taken together, according to newly released government data.
In its latest Covid-19 infection survey released on Wednesday, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has recorded 764 reinfections in nearly 28,700 participants since December 20, 2021. This is close to the point where Omicron is thought to have overtaken the Alpha and Delta variants to become the dominant strain of the virus in circulation across the country.
The survey noted that before May 17, 2021, infections were likely to be related to the Alpha or other variants, while the period between May 17 to December 19 saw “substantial numbers of infections” linked to the Delta variant. However, from December 20 onwards, there was a surge in infections “compatible with the Omicron variant.”
Prior to Omicron’s emergence, the bi-weekly surveys had screened for just 586 reinfections from among roughly 25,000 at-risk individuals. The latest figures, which cover the period from July 2020 till January 23, 2022, estimate that the rate of reinfections is now 180 cases per 100,000 people.
“Reinfections have increased sharply among our survey participants, particularly during the Omicron dominant period,” Sarah Crofts, the survey’s analytical outputs head, told the Financial Times. She added that “more participants [are] experiencing reinfections during this period than we saw during all previous variants combined.”
However, Crofts also noted that “not all [who were reinfected] experienced symptoms and it is interesting to see that there were more people reporting symptoms from reinfections during the Delta period.”
The figures came as the UK began officially recording possible reinfection episodes on its Covid-19 dashboard this week – with the Health Security Agency noting that cases featuring a second Covid bout had shot up from about averaging around 1.4% of cases up to November 16 to making up about one in 10 cases now.
Last month, the ONS had estimated that the risk of reinfection from Omicron is 16 times greater than that from the Delta variant.