Will escalation of Omicron invoke earlier restrictions?
Team Veye | 10 Jan 2022
The Omicron variant, variant B.1.1.529, which was first reported to WHO on 24 November 2021 had got classified as a variant of concern by it two days later.
A variant of interest becomes a variant of concern if it is known to spread more easily, cause more severe disease, escape the body’s immune response, change the clinical presentation, or decrease the effectiveness of known tools – such as public health measures, diagnostics, treatments and vaccines.
As with all viruses, SARS-COV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, will continue to evolve as long as it continues to spread. The more that the virus spreads, the more pressure there is for the virus to change. So, the best way to prevent more variants from emerging is to stop the spread of the virus.
For most of the pandemic, Australia had completely sealed itself off from the world. Even a single infection had caused a lockdown sometimes. Last month Australia had lifted many strict restrictions after reaching a 90% double-jab target for over-16s.
But the Omicron variant has fuelled a surge in cases. From 10,000 cases a day just 11 days ago, it rose exponentially last week. Australia is now suffering infection rates far higher than elsewhere in the Asia-Pacific region.
Health experts are urging vigilance rather than getting pessimistic. Eminent epidemiologist, Dr Alexandra Martiniuk, at the George Institute for global health and the University of Sydney says that while Omicron is “unbelievably infectious”, that “doesn’t mean everyone has to get it, and it doesn’t mean everyone has to get it right now”.
Amidst reports of the Omicron outbreak peaking by the end of January in Australia’s most populous state, as shown by official modelling this Friday, authorities put back some restrictions in a bid to slow the record spike in infections.
But the emerging reality is that people all over the world are trying to live with the virus and beyond vaccination, we have to be careful.
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