"Omicron is associated with a two-thirds reduction in the risk of COVID-19 hospitalisation when compared to Delta," report a team of University of Edinburgh researchers in a preprint study of COVID-19 cases in Scotland. The researchers reached this preliminary conclusion based on COVID-19 infection testing and hospitalization data gathered between November 23 and December 19.

These Scottish results are in line with similar conclusions reached by researchers in South Africa who reported in a preprint study earlier this week that people diagnosed with omicron between October 1 and December 6 were 80 percent less likely to be admitted to hospital than those diagnosed with another variant during that period. As Reuters reports the South African study also found "that people who were hospitalized with Omicron in October-November were 70 percent less likely to develop severe disease than those admitted with Delta between April and November."

In further good news, the researchers in Scotland also report that booster shots of COVID-19 vaccines were associated with a nearly 60 percent reduced risk of symptomatic infection compared to those who had received just two vaccine doses.

"Although small in number, the study is good news. The two thirds reduction in hospitalisation of double vaccinated young people compared to Delta indicates that Omicron will be milder for more people," noted Oxford University biologist James Naismith in a statement at the Science Media Centre. "In my view, there is now solid reason to favour a more optimistic outcome of Omicron in the UK than was feared."

Naismith did, however, caution, "Although two thirds reduction is significant, Omicron can cause severe illness in the doubly vaccinated. Thus if Omicron continues to double every few days, it could generate many more hospitalisations than Delta from the double vaccinated population."

His advice: Get boosted now.

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