HIQA’s Director of Health Technology Assessment Dr Máirín Ryan has said emerging evidence regarding the Omicron variant and the pandemic offers grounds for “cautious optimism”.
The Authority has published three reports it submitted to the national public health emergency team (NPHET) on 19 January.
HIQA updated its rolling reviews on international public health guidance and agency assessments of the evidence in relation to Omicron. In addition, a new report was provided to NPHET on epidemiological data from countries which experienced a high burden of Omicron cases earlier than Ireland.
HIQA reviewed the latest international guidance on measures to limit the spread of Covid-19 and found that, generally, recommendations to avoid large public and private events were still widespread. However, restrictions, such as the required duration of restriction of movements, were beginning to relax in most countries.
HIQA also identified and summarised assessments of the scientific evidence as published by public health agencies and authorities between 4 and 18 January 2022. Key factors relating to the impact of the Omicron variant were examined, including assessments of transmission and transmissibility, severity of infection, the ability of Omicron to escape immunity, and the effectiveness of existing vaccines, treatments, and tests. While the clinical impact of Omicron is still not fully understood, there is growing evidence that Omicron is associated with less severe disease than previous variants.
In considering epidemiological trends since the emergence of the Omicron variant, HIQA noted that by mid-January, cases in the UK and South Africa appeared to have passed a peak and were declining, and that hospital admissions, including ICU admissions were stable in these countries.
Dr Máirín Ryan said: “Considering the international trends in hospitalisations and ICU admission rates, as well as the scientific evidence on the Omicron variant, there is cautious optimism that things appear to be moving in the right direction, despite ongoing high levels of transmission associated with Omicron. This is reflected in the international public health guidance where there has been some easing of restrictions.”