"Should we panic?"
Now it’s Omicron, a mutation of the COVID-19 virus that promises to be more infectious and more lethal than the Delta variant which has ravaged mankind in the past 12 months.
Delta was 50 percent more contagious than the original COVID-19 virus. Where before a person infected by the original virus could infect an average of 2.5 people, a person infected with the Delta variant infected 3.5 to 4 other people. Eventually, Delta accounted for 99 percent of COVID cases since it became apparent in December 2020 in India.
Now, it’s December again, and we have a new variant, the Omicron. The variant is said to have much higher transmissibility and to be more resistant to current vaccines.
Omicron has panicked the world, sent stock markets crashing (the Dow lost 905 points on Friday, its worse session since October 2020), forced several countries to close their borders to anyone who is not their citizen, froze a reviving global tourism, and aborted a nascent worldwide economic recovery.
Amid the stock market slump, shares of vaccine makers Moderna, Johnson & Johnson and BioNTech partner Pfizer jumped in prices after the drug makers said they were working to adapt their COVID-19 vaccines against the Omicron variant. The share price of a pharma company making anti-COVID drugs, rose 30 percent. Moderna said it would be months before an anti-Omicron could ship in massive quantities.
On Monday, US President Joe Biden called the Omicron Covid-19 variant a “cause for concern, not a cause for panic” a day after it was detected in North America.
The World Health Organization initially declared Omicron a virus of concern”•its highest level of alert. And then WHO warned that the Omicron coronavirus variant poses a high risk of infection surges around the globe.
That the WHO made such declarations is remarkable. Firstly, little is known yet about Omicron. Secondly, there is no certainty yet on Omicron’s potential harm or damage. It takes at least two weeks to conduct definitive tests. And three months to develop a counter vaccine. Speculation and caution have taken over science in coping with Omicron.
How do you explain WHO’s premeditated haste? One explanation: WHO lately has been hard up on cash. And the one country with plenty of that commodity is China.
China, as you know, has been blamed for triggering the worst pandemic in 100 years. In December, 2019, COVID-19 was supposed to have started from a public market in WUHAN, from animals, where they are sold in that market. COVID-19 should have been named the Wuhan virus but the Chinese objected. WHO then resorted to naming virus variants using the letters of the Greek alphabet.
China would welcome that the blame is spread out. Delta originated in India. Omicron originated in Africa. The major COID-19 viruses are coming from China, India, Africa, in that order of diminishing number of huge populations”•1.4 billion, 1.3 billion, and 1.2 billion, respectively.
Actually, Omicron should have been named Xi, in accordance with WHO’s new nomenclature business. But Xi is the name of the leader of China. So naming Omicron as Xi would be like bringing back the blame for the pandemic to China.
In the Philippines, the IATF was quick to see the business side of things. It thought right away of mandating back the much despised face shields, now the symbol of corruption in the Duterte government. It seems some companies (Pharmally?) haven’t unloaded their huge inventory of overpriced face shields. Omicron has come to the rescue for these people.
Accordingly, during the awards ceremonies for outstanding foreign service officers at Malacanang Monday, everybody, except President Duterte, wore –ta da—- face shields!
In the US, the Wall Street Journal reported that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Monday strengthened its Covid-19 booster-shot recommendations, reflecting the potential threat the new Omicron variant poses to the pandemic response in the U.S. and world-wide.
The CDC asked everyone 18 and older to get an additional shot after completing a first course of Covid-19 vaccination. Previously, only those 50 and above needed a booster.
“The recent emergence of the Omicron variant (B.1.1.529) further emphasizes the importance of vaccination, boosters and prevention efforts needed to protect against Covid-19,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said in a statement.
She urged unvaccinated people who are eligible for COVID-19 shots to get them.
CDC has said COVID-19 is a disease caused by a virus named SARS-CoV-2 and was discovered in December 2019 in Wuhan, China. It is very contagious and has quickly spread around the world.
COVID-19 most often causes respiratory symptoms that can feel much like a cold, a flu, or pneumonia. COVID-19 may attack more than your lungs and respiratory system. Other parts of your body may also be affected by the disease.
WSJ said Omicron has rattled officials in the U.S. and around the world, as researchers race to understand the changed pathogen.
What then for us Filipinos? Well, as my colleague Alex Magno, advises: Do not panic.