Preliminary data suggests that people with the omicron variant of the coronavirus are 50% to 70% less likely to be hospitalized than those with the delta strain, Britain’s public health agency announced today. The findings from the U.K. Health Security Agency add to emerging evidence that omicron produces milder illness than other variants. But scientists caution that any reductions in severity must be weighed against the fact that omicron spreads much faster than delta and is better at evading vaccines, Medical Xpress reports. Based on cases in the U.K., a person with omicron is estimated to be 31% to 45% less likely to go to a hospital emergency department compared to someone with delta, “and 50 to 70% less likely to be admitted to hospital,” the agency said. As of Dec. 20, 132 people had been admitted to U.K. hospitals with confirmed omicron. Fourteen of them died, all between the ages of 52 and 96. Countries around the world are looking closely at Britain, where omicron is now dominant and where COVID-19 cases have surged by more than 50% in a week. Britain reported nearly 120,000 lab-confirmed COVID-19 cases on Thursday, the highest yet during the pandemic and the second day the number has topped 100,000. Britain’s Office for National Statistics estimated that about 1 in 45 people in private households in England – 1.2 million individuals – had COVID-19 in the week to Dec. 16, the highest level seen in the pandemic. Britain’s Conservative government this month reinstated rules requiring face masks in shops and ordered people to show proof of vaccination or a negative coronavirus test before entering nightclubs and other crowded venues in an attempt to slow omicron’s spread. Louis Mansky, director of the Institute for Molecular Virology at the University of Minnesota, said there’s not enough data to know how omicron will play out in the U.S. “It gets back to the health status of the average American,” Mansky said. “We have other epidemics going on in terms of obesity, cardiovascular disease,” he said, explaining that “the general health of the individual” will be an important factor in how sick they might get from omicron.