It is fair to say that the first Omicron/Delta wave was more scary in its initial stage than it has eventually turned out to be. Indeed, many commentators have argued that we have been lucky. Be that as it may, let this episode of initially heightened worry serve as a wake-up call. For the world remains underprepared even today against a downside scenario of a highly transmissible and more lethal variant.
For cases, the recent peak exceeded the all-time peak by a factor of 4.7 for high-income countries (HICs), 2.4 for upper-middle-income countries (UMICs), 1 for lower-middle-income countries (LMICs) and 2.3 for low-income countries (LICs).
For fatalities, the impact of the recent wave has been less severe across country groups compared to previous peaks. Peak mortality stood at 61% of the all-time peak for HICs and 57% for UMICs. The ratio was lower for LMICs and LICs at 36% and 47% respectively.
The initial Omicron/Delta wave has in the meantime dissipated. Yet, the initial wave was soon followed by other waves, including the one associated with the spread of BA.5 which causes a resurgence of cases and, again to a lesser extent, fatalities. It is however hard to compare most recent peaks with earlier ones given the current environment of dramatically reduced testing.
“The world got lucky with Omicron. It’s unimaginable what would have happened if that highly contagious variant had caused disease as severe as Delta has. We may not be so lucky the next time. The world cannot afford to be so unprepared ever again.”