Nosocomial SARS-CoV-2 transmission in multi-bedded hospital cubicles over successive pandemic waves: lower mortality but wider spread with Omicron despite enhanced infection-prevention measures


  • Hospital-onset COVID-19 (HA-COVID-19) cases were monitored over 9 months.
  • HA-COVID-19 formed a larger proportion of hospitalized cases during Omicron (vs. Delta).
  • Mortality in HA-COVID-19 was reduced during the Omicron wave.
  • HA-COVID-19 cases identified via daily testing had lower odds of onwards transmission.



Increased transmissibility of severe-acute-respiratory-syndrome-coronavirus-2(SARS-CoV-2) variants, such as the Omicron-variant, presents an infection-control challenge. We contrasted nosocomial transmission amongst hospitalized inpatients across successive pandemic waves attributed to the Delta- and Omicron variants, over a 9-month period in which enhanced-infection-prevention-measures were constantly maintained.


Enhanced-infection-prevention-measures in-place at a large tertiary hospital included universal N95-usage, routine-rostered-testing (RRT) for all inpatient/healthcare-workers (HCWs), rapid-antigen-testing (RAT) for visitors, and outbreak-investigation coupled with enhanced-surveillance (daily-testing) of exposed patients. The study-period lasted from 21st June 2021-21st March 2022. Chi-square test and multivariate-logistic-regression was utilized to identify factors associated with onward transmission and 28d-mortality amongst inpatient cases of hospital-onset COVID-19.


During the Delta-wave, hospital-onset cases formed 2.7% (47/1727) of all COVID-19 cases requiring hospitalisation; in contrast, hospital onset-cases formed a greater proportion (17.7%, 265/1483; odds-ratio, OR=7.78, 95%CI=5.65-10.70) during the Omicron-wave, despite universal N95-usage and other enhanced infection-prevention measures that remained unchanged. The odds of 28d-mortality were higher during the Delta-wave compared to the Omicron-wave (27.7%, 13/47, vs. 10.6%, 28/265, adjusted-odds-ratio, aOR=2.78, 95%CI=1.02-7.69). Onward-transmission occurred in 21.2% (66/312) of hospital-onset cases; being on enhanced-surveillance (daily-testing) was independently associated with lower odds of onward-transmission (aOR=0.18, 95%CI=0.09-0.38)


A surge of hospital-onset COVID-19 cases was encountered during the Omicron-wave, despite continuation of enhanced infection-prevention measures; mortality amongst hospital-onset cases was reduced. The Omicron variant poses an infection-control challenge in contrast to Delta; surveillance is important especially in settings where infrastructural limitations make room-sharing unavoidable, despite the high risk of transmission.


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