Epidemiologist says Omicron could cause an unprecedented workload for hospitals in Latvia

Even if Latvia adopts restrictions akin to a severe quarantine, ensures a 40% drop in contacts between non-vaccinated residents and a 30% drop in contacts between vaccinated residents, Omicron Covid-19 variant can still cause a surge of new infection cases, which may culminate with nearly 15 000 new infections a day by mid-February and 4 550 simultaneous hospitalised Covid-19 patients, as the government was told by National Health Service’s Vaccination Project Office specialist Ņikita Trojanskis.
If restrictions are not eased after 11 January next year and mutual contacts among vaccinated people reduce 10% and 20% among non-vaccinated people, this increase may reach 20 000 new Covid-19 cases and about 6 000 new Covid-19 patients in hospitals.
According to Trojanskis, currently there is no concrete information about the speed of spread of Omicron variant. And so experts have come up with multiple models based on different speeds
According to the base scenario,
assuming Omicron variant is 2.5 times more contagious, at the peak of the infection – around the start or middle of February – the maximum number of hospitalised patients may reach 6 545, while the daily average may reach 22 500.
«According to our model, basically every non-vaccinated person would become infected during this outbreak and 6 545 people would be hospitalised at the peak of the outbreak (4 600 were hospitalised at the end of October),» explains the expert.
He admits it is difficult to predict what could happen next, because the countries used to compile outlooks – Britain, Denmark and Norway – are in a somewhat better position than Latvia since they are better protected. This is why experts have analysed multiple different scenarios. The worst case scenario includes Omicron proving three times more contagious than Delta, resulting in more than 25 000 daily infections. This situation may result in stagnation for the testing system – such a rapid increase would make it impossible to perform a sufficient number of tests.
Read also: Latvian government permits bars and entertainment venues to work on New Year’s night
In the most optimistic scenario, if Omicron turns out twice as contageous as Delta, at the peak of infections there may be up to 17 000 new daily Covid-19 infections and approximately 5 500 simultaneous Covid-19 patients hospitalised.
Experts generally agree booster shots and tight restrictions are the only but individually insufficient solution to slow the spread of Omicron.
Experts also agree it is important to prepare the country’s healthcare system for a major influx of new hospitalisations in February.
The epidemiologist also outlined multiple aspects that remain unclear and therefore make it difficult to plan out restrictions. Currently it is unknown when Omicron variant could start circulating in Latvia locally. At the same time, there is no convincing data on the efficacy of the standard two-jab vaccination method or booster shot vaccination efficacy when it comes to preventing severe infection and death.