We should allow ourselves some optimism this Christmas - despite the threat of Omicron
Yes, it’s another Christmas that’s been badly hit by Covid, but there are reasons to look ahead to 2022 with a degree of optimism
The build-up to Christmas is stressful enough at the best of times. Rushed trips to the shops; parcels going missing; awkward decisions over which relatives to host, or which to grace with your presence; ensuring there’s a plentiful supply of kilted sausages and Bailey’s.
As if that wasn’t enough to raise anyone’s anxiety levels, this year, just when we thought we’d got through the worst of the pandemic and put the misery of last Christmas behind us, along came Omicron.
Remember those early reports from South Africa, the ones with words like “alarming” and “most mutated variant yet”? Sadly, it turned out to be just as bad as the experts feared, and it has swept the world with ferocious speed.
The good news, of course, is that we now have solid data to show that it’s significantly milder than previous variants.
But that doesn’t mean we’re out of the woods, and there are justified concerns over how the NHS will cope with the inevitable rise in hospitalisations that will come from the sheer number of people infected, at a time when they’re already struggling with staff absences through Covid.
And no matter its severity, Omicron has put paid to festive plans for millions of people across the country. I’ve lost count of the number of friends and colleagues who’ve told me they’ve tested positive in the past week, or a family member has, meaning they’ll need to spend Christmas in isolation.
Even in our age of Netflix and Nintendo Switch, nothing makes up for seeing loved ones and catching up with mates at Christmastime, so it’s easy to feel like we’re stuck in an endless cycle of Covid woe.
However, we can allow ourselves to hope for a better year in 2022. We are lucky to live in a part of the world with an advanced vaccine rollout (global vaccine inequality is a whole other issue) and there’s broad scientific agreement that the Omicron wave will peak much faster than Delta before it.
In a recent Covid briefing, Professor Chris Whitty, not a man known to throw caution to the wind, offered a look ahead to how we might tackle the next pandemic. Like everything he says, it was considered and balanced, but it did offer a rare note of optimism:
“If I project forward, I would anticipate in a number of years – possibly 18 months, possibly slightly less, possibly slightly more – that we will have polyvalent vaccines, which will cover a much wider range, and we will probably have several antivirals.
“We’ve already got two reasonable ones, and a variety of other counter-measures that mean that the great majority – and probably almost all of the heavy lifting when we get a new variant, unless it’s extremely different – can be met by medical means.
“I don’t see this as a kind of ‘we are going to have to do this repeatedly every few months’ situation. I think what will happen is the risks will gradually decrease over time. It’s incremental, it’s not a sudden thing.
“But I think each six months will be better than the last six months.”
Each six months will be better than the last six months. I’ll take that.
Have a very Merry Christmas, no matter how or where you’re spending it.
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