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Jason Leitch: ‘Peak of Omicron wave to come late in January’

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Scotland’s National Clinical Director has warned that Omicron cases could peak at the end of January.

The Scottish Government reported 8,252 new cases of Covid on Christmas Day rising to 11,030 on Boxing Day and a further 10, 562 on December 27.

This is the highest daily total recorded since the pandemic began with Professor Jason Leitch calling the numbers “depressingly predictable”.

This rise is driven by the more transmissible Omicron variant first detected in Scotland on November 28.

The variant has now spread to all 14 health boards in Scotland but studies have shown it is less severe than the previous Delta variant.

The latest number of people in hospital with Omicron in Scotland was 42.

While this number may be relatively low, Prof Leitch told Good Morning Scotland that we have “got used to these numbers”.

Before the pandemic, the baseline for intensive care beds in Scotland was 200 and as the virus spread hospital capacity was increased in line with rising numbers.

Professor Leitch commented that Omicron hospitalisations are not rising as fast as Delta which he hailed as “excellent news”.

If you can vaccinate 75,000 people a day then every day counts.”

It supports studies that show that while Omicron is milder than Delta it is not a mild disease.

Speaking to Good Morning Scotland, Professor Leitch said: “If you have four times as many cases even with a quarter of the severity, you are going to end up with the same number of people needing ventilated and the same number dying.

“We have no evidence, despite what you might read on social media that this disease is four times less severe than Delta.”

Professor Leitch made it clear that there was still insufficient evidence to say Omicron is less severe.

By gathering data from Scots who have some immunity due to vaccines experts could make a more accurate assessment.

Professor Leitch said: “The modelling suggests that the peak of the Omicron wave in the UK would be around mid-to-late January pushing into February.”

“We may not want the peak early because if this an enormous wave we may want to draw it out over a longer period because we want to get more people vaccinated.

“If we can make it last longer then it will not be as severe for the population but the modelling suggests we won’t see the big numbers for two or three weeks yet.”

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