You will get omicron

PAHO director Dr Carissa Etienne - ANGELO_MARCELLE
PAHO director Dr Carissa Etienne - ANGELO_MARCELLE

WE MUST take note of several developments internationally in relation to covid19. These developments suggest this country must urgently boost its vaccination programme and must approach the omicron variant as an impending natural disaster.

There is increasing realisation among international agencies that omicron is so infectious it will result in a tsunami of cases.

On Tuesday, the World Health Organization (WHO) said more than half of Europe is expected to become infected in the next six-eight weeks on the current projections. Hans Kluge, the WHO’s regional director for Europe, said the variant would move like a “west-to-east tidal wave sweeping across” the continent.

On the same day, in the US, Food and Drug Administration (FDA) head Janet Woodcock told lawmakers most Americans will end up infected with the variant.

“Most people are going to get covid, all right?” she said. “What we need to do is make sure the hospitals can still function.”

She was backed up by US President Joe Biden’s medical adviser Dr Anthony Fauci, who warned the omicron variant “will ultimately find just about everybody.”

Meanwhile, the number of covid19 infections in the Americas exploded during the first week of January, according to Dr Carissa Etienne, the director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO).

On Wednesday, PAHO revealed there had been a 250 per cent increase compared to the first week of 2021, with cases jumping to 6.8 million as of January 8 this year. Cases have spiked by as much as 300 per cent in some places in the last few days alone.

“This new wave will not be moderate, as omicron is already causing difficulties and limiting the care of other diseases, overwhelming health personnel in several countries,” PAHO warned.

In this regard, we draw attention to the continued situation at our local hospitals, which are already over capacity in several crucial respects.

As observed in one letter to the editor published this week, toddlers and adults alike are having difficulty accessing basic services, whether or not they are covid19-positive.

“Has our healthcare system collapsed?” one writer asked. “I believe it has.”

With almost 100,000 cases of covid19 confirmed locally by now, we are learning to live with the virus. The Government’s relaxation of restrictions on open-air cremations on Thursday is an acknowledgment of that.

Thus far, about two dozen cases of the omicron variant have been identified. We don’t need to wait for these figures to shift to know there are many more out there, not reported to the authorities, and what is coming.

We need to brace for omicron from now and treat with the impending situation as we would any natural disaster. That means taking stock of the essential tools we need to weather the storm, including vaccination, and doing all we can to remain safe.

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"You will get omicron"

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