Experts are warning of a "concerning" rise in Omicron cases across the North East.
Dr Mike Tildesley, from the University of Warwick and a member of the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Modelling group, highlighted these regions as places where hospital admissions are going up.
However, he said: "On the slightly more positive side, so it doesn’t sound all doom and gloom, what we are seeing from hospital admissions is that stays in hospital do appear to be on average shorter, which is good news, symptoms appear to be a little bit milder, so this is what we are seeing consistently with the Omicron variant.”
Dr Tildesley added that Omicron is possibly the “first ray of light” in ensuring Covid-19 becomes endemic and easier to live with, similar to the common cold.
He said: “The thing that might happen in the future is you may see the emergence of a new variant that is less severe, and ultimately, in the long term, what happens is Covid becomes endemic and you have a less severe version. It’s very similar to the common cold that we’ve lived with for many years.
“Hopefully, as we move more towards the spring and we see the back of Omicron, we can get more inter-relationship of living with Covid as an endemic disease and protecting the vulnerable.
“Any variant that does emerge which is less severe, ultimately, in the longer term, is where we want to be.”
It comes in the same week that three hospitals in the North East suspended visiting due to rising cases.
While staffing is tight across the region due to the virus, North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Trust said the situation is "manageable".
Meanwhile, NHS England data shows 39,142 NHS staff at hospital trusts in England were absent for Covid-19 reasons on January 2, up 59% on the previous week and more than three times the number at the start of December.
According to the Health Service Journal (HSJ), staff absences across the entire NHS, including mental health trusts and other areas, for any reason including Covid-19, may be as high as 120,000.
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