January 2, 2022 There have been 105 new community cases of Covid-19 in the past two days.
Suffice to say that with thousands of people infected with Covid-19 or isolated, Christmas and New Years Eve 2021 hardly resembled the ânormalâ end of the year promised by the leaders in the last days of the respective epidemics of the delta of Australia.
The arrival of the Omicron strain turned people’s long-awaited plans upside down, putting enormous strain on testing capabilities, forcing companies to shut down and putting the brakes on the silly season as the number of cases skyrocketed through the country.
Despite the less-than-optimal start to 2022, however, health experts both at home and abroad have suggested that the new variant – and the next 12 months – could finally mark the end of the two-year reign of the coronavirus pandemic.
Former Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr Nick Coatsworth could not have made it clearer today, writing in an op-ed for the Sydney Morning Herald that “in 2022 the Covid-19 pandemic will end” .
“Driven by the inexorable and inevitable spread of the Omicron variant and the use of vaccines, the world’s population will generate immunity against this virus,” Coatsworth wrote.
âThe basic proposition of a pandemic, an infectious disease spreading globally among a never-infected population, will be nil. We will once again live our lives as members of the incredibly social and incurably optimistic human species that thrives on this planet and has emerged from countless pandemics throughout history stronger and more able to handle the next. “
Not “the same disease we saw a year ago”
Covid-19, he added, “is now the most treatable respiratory virus known to man,” and despite its transmissibility, Omicron will likely have a lower case-to-death ratio than influenza, “and not particularly severe flu at that “.
As immunologist Sir John Bell, who was a senior scientist on the AstraZeneca vaccine, concluded earlier this week, the strain is not “the same disease we saw a year ago.”
“The horrific scenes that we saw a year ago – with the intensive care units full, a lot of people are dying prematurely – that’s now history in my opinion, and I think we should be. reassured that this is likely to continue, “said Professor Regis of medicine. at the University of Oxford told BBC Radio 4’s Today program on Wednesday.
Professor Martin Hibberd of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine agreed.
“The virus will come out of the pandemic strain very soon and will become milder, more transmissible to the point where you may just have to think about vaccinating the most vulnerable members of the population,” Dr Julian Tang told the Guardian.
Positive signs in South Africa
While cases elsewhere – including Australia, UK and US – continue to be bolstered by the most contagious strain, in South Africa, where Omicron was first detected in November, experts predict it will have fizzled out in a matter of weeks.
While an increase in hospitalizations has coincided with a sharp increase in the number of cases, admission rates in South Africa have so far remained well below levels seen in previous waves of the pandemic, and, positively, patients with Omicron stayed for shorter periods and there were fewer deaths.
“We have seen a very rapid increase in cases and an early spike – and everything indicates that since then we have seen a remarkable decline,” said Dr Waasila Jassat of the National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD).
The latest NICD report shows cases through Dec. 18 fell 20.8% nationwide in a week – and although some officials have warned it’s important “not to extrapolate what we let’s see South Africa across the continent or across the world âis a sign of hope.
“The end of the pandemic as a social phenomenon”
Whatever course Omicron takes elsewhere, Johns Hopkins University Associate Professor Yascha Mounk wrote for The Atlantic that it will bring about “the end of the pandemic as a social phenomenon.”
The goal, at least in the United States, he wrote, is now “to help us deal with a wave of cases, not to prevent just one from happening in the first place.”
“If Omicron starts sending tens of thousands of intensive care patients, bringing hospitals to the brink of collapse, politicians and citizens will respond,” he added.
“But if the goal had once been to prevent an emergency from occurring, serious restrictions like shutdowns are now only possible if we find ourselves in a situation where the urgency is already evident to everyone.”
Mounk concluded that “whatever damage Omicron may cause in the immediate future, we will most likely soon be leading lives that look a lot more like they were in the spring of 2019 than they did in the spring of 2020.”
In Australia, Coatsworth suggested a similar result.
The virus’s evolution to something less extreme “will allow us to lift all but the least intrusive restrictions.”
Young Australians, Coatsworth said, will be able to go back to school, travel the country and the world, and any future restrictions “would only arise in the most serious threat to our health” – a threat that “is becoming more and more acute. unlikely by day “.
“In light of our community success, the evolution of the virus to a milder form and new effective treatments, the time for community-wide mandates and restrictions is therefore over,” he said. written in the SMH.
“We can be rightly proud of what we have accomplished as Australians in the face of what has been a challenge in our lives. Through our efforts we will emerge a stronger, healthier and more prosperous nation.
“2022 will be the year the pandemic ends. It may even be sooner than we think.”