Omikron variant does not succeed in displacing delta completely: “We had hoped for that, and we do not know why”


The omikron variant does not succeed in completely displacing the delta variant. That’s what virologist Marc Van Ranst said on Thursday evening in The appointment. “We have no idea how that happened.”

The emergence of the very rapidly spreading omikron variant has been cause for cautious optimism among many virologists in recent weeks. The first studies showed that this variant is less pathogenic than previous variants, so that fewer infected people became seriously ill and ended up in intensive care.

But, said virologist Marc Van Ranst on Thursday evening in The appointment, that variant has still not succeeded in completely displacing the delta variant. “85 percent of infections today are with omikron, but 15 percent are still with delta,” he said. “During the admissions in our hospital (UZ Leuven, ed.) you see that in the past few weeks. The roles have been reversed in intensive care: the patients who end up in intensive care there are mainly infected with delta.”

Hope did not come true

That is a shame, said Van Ranst, because the hope of the experts was that omikron would completely wipe the delta variant off the map. “It went up really well. But at 85 percent, the numbers have started to stall and that’s where it hangs. We have no idea why, we see it in other countries too. Perhaps there is a subgroup within the delta variant that is slightly more contagious and can compete with omikron.”

It is therefore hoped that the next variant will arise from the omikron family, and not from the delta variant. “Then that virus will continue to become less sickening. The chance is high, but it remains to be seen. We cannot predict that exactly, you need a crystal ball for that.”


Van Ranst is also looking ahead to the summer, and he did not do so without hope. “There are good arguments to believe that we will be in a different world by then. Globally, you can see all the numbers going down. It would be premature to say that the virus is completely extinct, but the impact of the virus is decreasing. We are going to be able to act more normally.”

So off to Rock Werchter? “I see no reason to cancel that for a third year in a row. But with some measures and caution, because everyone is going to feel a bit uncomfortable, but all those things come back.”

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