Independent omicron analysis suggests hospitalisations will be less than half previous peak

An independent analysis by JP Morgan on the spread of omicron that suggests hospitalisations will be less than half of their previous peak is being circulated among Cabinet ministers who are sceptical of SAGE modelling.

Papers drawn up by the investment bank suggest hospitalisations during the omicron wave will remain below 1,500 patients per day – just a third of the January 2021 peak of 4,500.

The bank has concluded that a “major lockdown” will be unnecessary and that “the Government is unlikely to significantly strengthen Covid-19 measures,” describing its outlook for the new year as “cautiously optimistic”.

Cabinet ministers who have lost faith in the Government’s public health advisers have been passing the papers between them, believing that the bank’s analysis may be more accurate than the picture provided by SAGE, the official advisory committee.

‘Their data was just trashed’

The latest paper, seen by The Telegraph and published for investors on Monday, says that “while Christmas mixing is likely to lead to an increase in cases in the last week of the year we believe that should represent a peak, given work from home and the remainder of the school holidays”.

But cases may also be lower than otherwise expected because of the school holidays, the cancellation of football matches and a greater level of caution from the public, it says.

Although the return of schoolchildren in January will boost case levels at the beginning of 2022, the bank’s analysts argued that there will not be a corresponding increase in hospitalisations because of the effectiveness of the Government’s booster programme.

Another paper, published earlier this month, predicted that the peak of hospitalisations from the omicron wave would be less than half that of last winter.

Ministers are understood to have used the data to argue with the official picture presented by Professor Chris Whitty and Sir Patrick Vallance at a briefing for the Cabinet on Saturday.

“Their data was just trashed by the Cabinet. We tore them apart,” a source said.

How is omicron comparing to previous waves?

It comes after days of criticism of SAGE modelling, which has been accused of being too pessimistic about the outlook of omicron in the UK.

The JP Morgan analysis has now been superseded by three studies on the severity of the variant by Edinburgh University, a team of South African scientists and the UK’s Health Security Agency.

The latter study, published on Wednesday, showed that omicron patients are between 50 and 70 per cent less likely to require hospitalisation.

The South African data shows that patients in hospital with omicron are also 70 per cent less likely to have severe symptoms from the virus.

JP Morgan’s study suggests that if the average length of a hospital stay for a coronavirus patient was reduced from eight days to three days, the overall pressure on the NHS would fall by two thirds.

“This would be manageable without further restrictions,” the report said.

Sir Iain Duncan Smith, the former Conservative leader, said the analysis showed “the Government now must hold its nerve and make sure we don’t go into another lockdown”.

“It’s quite clear now from the data coming out today and from JP Morgan and everything else that things are nothing like as bad as these scientists were predicting or fearing,” he said.

“The problem is that if you just leave it to the scientists, they deal with the direct element in front of them, and they don’t pay attention to the collateral damage of just being focussed on one thing.”

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