Omicron fatality rate is still much higher than flu: experts
Published: Apr 07, 2022 12:03 AM
Hong Kong residents line up to take nucleic acid tests as the city battles an outbreak of the COVID-19 Omicron variant. Hong Kong confirmed 986 infections and registered another 800 primary positive cases on February 10, 2022. Photo: cnsphoto

Hong Kong residents line up in February to take nucleic acid tests as the city battles an outbreak of the COVID-19 Omicron variant. Photo: cnsphoto

Despite being weaker than previous COVID-19 variants, Omicron is still much deadlier than flu, especially for those who are not fully vaccinated, experts said on Wednesday, calling for the elderly to get vaccinated to lower the danger of the virus. 

The overall COVID-19 mortality rate in Hong Kong is about 0.7 percent, significantly higher than that of the seasonal flu, Wang Guiqiang, Director of the Infectious Diseases Department at the Peking University First Hospital, said at a press conference of the Joint Prevention and Control Mechanism of the State Council on Wednesday.

Wang explained that the large proportion of mild and asymptomatic cases among COVID-19 patients resulted from a less aggressive Omicron variant, a large scope of vaccination and an early detection due to voluntary nucleic acid testing.

"A great hint the data of Hong Kong gave us is that the patient's death rate is closely related to their vaccination status," emphasized Wang, saying that "the mortality rate in Hong Kong could fall from 3.2 percent to 0.96 percent if the patients receive one dose of vaccine. The death rate will further be reduced to 0.14 percent with two doses and 0.03 percent with three doses of vaccine."

Wang urged the elderly and those with underlying health conditions to get vaccinated and especially take a booster shot to truly reduce the ferocity of Omicron.

Health experts also responded to worries that the Omicron variant is deadlier than the Delta variant, given that Hong Kong has reported much more deaths in the fifth wave of COVID-19 than in the four previous waves combined.

According to the data in the UK and the US, the Omicron variant did cause more deaths than the previous Delta variant if counted in the same time period, Wu Zunyou, chief epidemiologist at the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said on the press conference.

But the situation in the Chinese mainland is very different because the government has been adopting multiple measures to prevent and reduce deaths, Wu noted.

Wu said the measures, including controlling the outbreak through early detection to avoid running out of medical resources, managing all positive infections to prevent mild cases turning into severe illness, treating severe cases with effective measures to reduce deaths and promoting COVID-19 vaccination.