Omicron variant causes less severe illness: Derry GP

A Derry GP says the Omicron Covid-19 variant causes a less severe illness - much more like a cold or mild flu - in the majority of people.

New Covid variant detected.
New Covid variant detected.

However, Dr Paul Molloy says that people who are already very ill or lacking immunity can still suffer badly and require hospitalisation or, even, die. This, he stresses, will be a small proportion of people.

Dr Molloy, who has since the beginning of the pandemic been working on the frontline, says that, when we compare the numbers currently in intensive care with last year and the numbers testing positive again, “it seems to me this variant is less severe”.

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However, he insists there can be no room for complacency.

“It seems likely to me that Covid will take its place alongside all the other viruses that cause colds and flu,” he told the ‘Journal’. “We give a flu jab every year as flu kills. It’s as simple as that. It tends to be most severe on the elderly and sick people. While all the focus has been on Covid, you can be sure that elderly and sick people will have been dying of influenza, RSV and other viruses.”

Dr Molloy says an excellent vaccination campaign - alongside widespread infections - further suggests “we may be somewhere near the magic herd immunity figure where we start living with the virus and not in fear of it.”

He adds: “I will, of course, keep doing what I am advised. I’ll wash my hands, wear my mask and avoid crowded places. However, while the current infection numbers might be causing worry in the community, I actually feel like it’s a real turning point. We can live with a less severe illness and a yearly vaccine. I think the risk of exacerbating mental illness and other factors do need balanced against any further isolation measures.”

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Dr Molloy believes society can learn many lessons from the era of the pandemic.

“Washing your hands stops the spread of many illnesses. Avoiding crowds, if you feel sick, avoids spreading many illnesses. Wearing a mask, if coughing, stops the spread of many illnesses.

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“Being healthy to begin with makes you more likely to survive any virus. Lose weight, don’t smoke, get some exercise are all much better things to do before you get heart or lung disease.

“The lessons learned during Covid help an overstretched NHS. If you sat in an average GP surgery on any day, you’d see the vast majority of the problems we deal with could have been prevented.”