Year three of the pandemic – what to expect in 2022.

Hawaii Ocean (Dr. Noorali Bharwani)
Hawaii Ocean (Dr. Noorali Bharwani)

In 2022, it will be year three of the COVID-19 pandemic. As we continue to fight Delta variant, we are now facing Omicron virus. None of the experts expected the pandemic to last this long. Many countries are enduring multiple major waves of infections. This is unusual.

COVID-19 is not going to end soon because it is so transmissible, and it continues to vary. Now we have to deal with the Omicron variant of the coronavirus. It is spreading rapidly. The Omicron variant is now in 70 countries.

By the time you read this it may have spread in other countries. Is it dangerous? Early indications suggested it may be less dangerous than Delta, which continues to drive the pandemic. But this information will change as we gather more information. Recently, Britain recorded world’s first publicly confirmed death due to Omicron.

President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser, Dr. Anthony Fauci, told CNN’s State of the Union that scientists need more information before drawing conclusions about Omicron’s severity.

Reports from South Africa, where the Omicron virus emerged and is becoming the dominant strain in that country, suggest that hospitalization rates have not increased alarmingly.

So far Delta remains the dominant variant, making up more than 99 per cent of cases and driving a surge of hospitalizations. This may not be true anymore. In London, England the Omicron variant now accounts for 40 per cent of infections.

“So, I think the idea that this is somehow a milder version of the virus – I think that’s something we need to set on one side – and just recognize the sheer pace at which it accelerates through the population,” says Boris Johnson, British Prime Minister. Johnson said people should rush to get booster vaccines to protect “our freedoms and our way of life.”

What does the World Health Organization (WHO) say?

The WHO’s main message is – do not underestimate Omicron.

On December 14, 2021, UN News reported the following:

The Omicron variant is “probably” now present in most of the world’s countries and it would be a mistake to dismiss the COVID-19 strain as “mild”, said the head of the UN health agency (WHO).

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization, told reporters from WHO headquarters in Geneva that the variant was now present in 77 countries.

“Omicron is spreading at a rate we have not seen with any previous variant. We’re concerned that people are dismissing Omicron as mild”, he said. “Surely, we have learned by now that we underestimate this virus at our peril.”

“Even if Omicron does cause less severe disease, the sheer number of cases could once again overwhelm unprepared health systems. I need to be very clear: vaccines alone will not get any country out of this crisis. Countries can – and must – prevent the spread of Omicron with measures that work today.”

It is worth remembering Omicron is dangerous because it spreads and infects people very effectively than other variants. It is always better to prevent it than to have to worry about treating it.

Will pre-pandemic life ever return?

Unlikely.

We have to be extremely careful. We can transmit COVID-19 before we start showing symptoms or without ever developing symptoms. Evidence indicates that vaccines are effective at preventing serious outcomes due to COVID-19, such as severe illness, hospitalization and death.

Vaccination does not change your risk of exposure to the virus. Vaccination is the best prevention against post COVID-19 condition. So, get vaccinated, wear a mask, clean your hands and keep a safe distance.

Have a wonderful holiday season, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. And do not underestimate Omicron.

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