Is Omicron the last hurrah for Covid-19?

One of the more thoughtful followers of this blog offered us a speculation: could the omicron variant of SARS-Cov-2 be the beginning of the end of this shattering pandemic? It’s an intriguing thought. Essentially his model is : because omicron is so infectious, it rapidly spreads through enormous numbers, inducing widespread immunity. The next evolving variant will find it hard to obtain a toehold in such a protected population. Successive waves grow weaker and weaker, and life in the twenties gradually returns to some sort of pre-pandemic normal. Eminently possible, and it got us thinking- what is the medium term future of this virus?

One thing we’ve noticed-the readers of LSS are an independent-minded lot who like to make their own conclusions, But we’ve found one excellent paper by Ewen Callaway in Nature: Beyond Omicron…….[1],which we think might give you all a place to start. It’s shrewd, because it tries to compare our experiences of SARS-Cov-2 with those of our viruses like 229E and the influenza family. It’s trustworthy because it admits the limitations of our knowledge (pub bores, Conservative MPs and conspiracy theorists take note). It’s incisive because it ask questions like “will the virus evolve by increasing its replication rate, or by changing its makeup to evade existing antibodies?” There are lots more reasons to hit the link, including some excellent graphs. We think every parent, everyone with vulnerable relatives, or just concerned citizens should look at Ewen’s paper-and it’s written really clearly.

However, there are deeper issues for us at this blog. Even if Covid-19 turns out to be something dangerous but manageable, like flu, what other respiratory viruses might suddenly spike, sending the economy and our lives into another tailspin? They’re still chopping down the forests with brutal glee in places like Brazil, and there’s little doubt that practice is the ultimate origin of viruses like the SARS family and many others, whatever the immediate antecedents of the alpha variant in 2019. Then there is the growing likelihood of a strain of antibiotic-resistant bacteria killing its way through swathes of helpless people. Maybe we need a new normal, where more attention is paid to things like medical research and public health. And less to frantic races to buy bright shiny gorgeous things whose real value is shown by how quickly they pass to landfill. Oh well. We tried.

[1]https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-021-03619-8

#Sars-Cov-2 #coronavirus #covid-19 #public health #economy

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