COVID-19 with omicron isn’t ‘same disease,’ Oxford scientist says

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The omicron variant that’s taking the world by storm is not “the same disease we were seeing a year ago,” a University of Oxford immunologist said, reinforcing reports about the strain’s milder nature.

The strain first discovered at the end of November appears to be less severe and even patients who do end up in the hospital spend less time there, John Bell, regius professor of medicine at Oxford, said on BBC Radio 4’s Today program.

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“The horrific scenes that we saw a year ago -- intensive care units being full, lots of people dying prematurely -- that is now history in my view, and I think we should be reassured that that’s likely to continue,” Bell said.

Bell’s comments came after the UK government said it wouldn’t introduce stricter COVID-19 restrictions in England before the end of the year.

Infections have jumped by more than a quarter of a million in the past week, heaping pressure on Prime Minister Boris Johnson to respond. Health Secretary Sajid Javid late Monday said he’s monitoring the latest data and urged people to be careful, particularly at New Year celebrations.

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