COVID is Now Less Deadly Than The Flu in England, as Mask Requirements End
The Covid virus has gradually become less lethal over the two years since the pandemic began in early 2020—so much so that, now seasonal influenza is currently more deadly in England, according to analysis from The Financial Times.
“For every 100,000 Omicron infections, 35 will result in death, while the equivalent number of flu infections will lead to 40 fatalities,” John Burn-Murdoch and Oliver Barnes wrote in the article on FT.com.
They point to the high degree of immune protection from either vaccinations or previous infections as being the main reason for the recent parity with the flu.
“The proportion of people infected with Covid-19 in England who go on to die has dipped below that of seasonal flu, which has an infection fatality rate of roughly 0.04 percent,” wrote Burn-Murdoch and Barnes.
In the chart below, you can see that the blue line toward the bottom is the infection fatality ratio for seasonal flu. The ratio of fatalities from the Omicron variant recently dipped below that mark of 0.04 percent.
NEW: for the first time in the pandemic, a Covid infection now carries less mortality risk than a flu infection in England, the result of widespread immunity and the emergence of a less virulent variant in Omicron.
— John Burn-Murdoch (@jburnmurdoch) March 10, 2022
Reported hospitalization rates in England are on the rise this month, but that can be a bit misleading, because, according to the article, “more than two-fifths of Covid-19 patients in England’s hospitals are being treated primarily for something else, having incidentally tested positive upon admission.”
Getting back to normal
Many countries have started relaxing their COVID restriction rules, bolstered by dropping infection rates and studies suggesting that COVID-19 caused by the Omicron variant is less severe.
In the UK, all legal restrictions related to the pandemic, including mask requirements in public and self-isolation following a positive test, have been retired.
In Switzerland, people no longer need to wear masks in most public places. And although those who test positive for COVID-19 must isolate for five days, all other restrictions have disappeared.
“We’re in a different place now,” says Müge Çevik, who researches infectious diseases and medical virology at the University of St Andrews, UK. “It’s clear now we can’t prevent infections, so the focus needs to be on preventing severe outcomes.”
Joël Mossong, an infectious-disease epidemiologist at Luxembourg’s Health Directorate, supports lifting restrictions in his country. “We’ve seen some deaths, but nothing of the sort that we witnessed last winter, even last spring,” he says in Nature. “The argument for keeping up the restrictions has really gone, and I think we were we’re now in a phase where the strategy to remove restrictions is the right way to go.”
However, Çevik also believes that targeted populations should continue to be tested. Although, the benefits of general testing for asymptomatic people aren’t worth the trouble, she thinks regular testing is crucial in high-risk settings such as hospitals, care homes, and prisons.
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