COVID-19 patients show milder symptoms - UK vaccine minister

"At the moment, if you look at the people who have been hospitalized, they are going in with less severe conditions than before," Minister for Vaccines and Public Health Maggie Throup told Sky News.

A medical technologist tests a respiratory panel at Northwell Health Labs, where the same test will be used on the COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, after being authorized to begin semi-automated testing by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in Lake Success, New York, U.S (photo credit: REUTERS/SHANNON STAPLETON)
A medical technologist tests a respiratory panel at Northwell Health Labs, where the same test will be used on the COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, after being authorized to begin semi-automated testing by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in Lake Success, New York, U.S
(photo credit: REUTERS/SHANNON STAPLETON)

People being hospitalized with COVID-19 in the United Kingdom are broadly showing less severe symptoms than before, Britain's vaccine minister said on Tuesday, adding there was no need for further restrictions at this stage.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson resisted imposing stringent lockdown measures in England ahead of New Year as Omicron fueled a spike in cases to record highs.

While hospitalizations are rising they have not tracked the trajectory of daily cases, possibly reflecting the impact of vaccines and booster shots, the likely lower severity of Omicron, and the time lag in people going into hospital.

"At the moment, if you look at the people who have been hospitalized, they are going in with less severe conditions than before," Minister for Vaccines and Public Health Maggie Throup told Sky News, adding that the "Plan B" Johnson brought in in December was working.

"The numbers that are in hospital beds is about half what it was a year ago - and that just shows the power of the vaccine."

BRITISH PRIME MINISTER Boris Johnson receives a dose of the Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine earlier this month. (credit: FRANK AUGSTEIN/REUTERS)BRITISH PRIME MINISTER Boris Johnson receives a dose of the Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine earlier this month. (credit: FRANK AUGSTEIN/REUTERS)

Neil Ferguson, an epidemiologist at Imperial College London, said that while infections in London in under-50s may have plateaued, the incredibly steep spike in that age group had not yet had time to spread to older age groups, which are more vulnerable to COVID-19.

"We may see a different pattern in hospitalizations. Hospitalizations are still generally going up across the country, and we may see high levels for some weeks," he told BBC Radio.

"Vaccination is holding up in terms of protection against severe disease, assisted by the fact that Omicron almost certainly is substantially less severe, but it still puts pressures on the health system."

Soaring case numbers have led to substantial disruption due to staff self-isolating, with train operators canceling trains in London, hospitals lacking staff, and schools facing teacher shortages as term restarts in England.