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Learning to live with the virus

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Slowly but surely, mankind is being made to realize that we have to live with this coronavirus around us. There’s just no other way.

Barely two months after the detection of the highly-contagious Omicron Covid-19 variant last November and the threat of another big lockdown taking over the world, here we are confronted with the threat of a new variant that was discovered in Cyprus.

They’ve called it Deltacron, for being a combination of the Delta and Omicron strains. A professor at the University of Cyprus says the new discovery has the genetic signature of Omicron and the genomes of Delta which made its deadly presence felt last year.

This comes days after a group of scientists in France reported another strain with more mutations than Omicron, called IHU and whose first case was detected in the Republic of Congo. There were also reports that a combination of the flu and coronavirus have also been discovered. They’ve called it Flurona.

Presently, Omicron seems to be the most dominant variant, having registered as of last week the highest number of daily infections of 2.3 million worldwide and has forced many countries to adopt new restrictions to stem the spike.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, general director of the World Health Organization (WHO) released a statement saying that “although Omicron appears to be less severe compared to Delta, especially in those vaccinated, it does not mean that it should be classified as mild.”

The most prominent symptoms of Omicron are cough, fatigue, fever, sneezing, muscle pain, runny nose, and headache. Symptoms that differ from those of Delta, since they are less aggressive on the body, although Omicron spreads more quickly.

The Omicron variant has hit hard in different parts of the world, including the Philippines.

It is spreading like wildfire in the United States, averaging more than 900,000 new infections and 2,000 deaths a day. Here at home, cases have spiked to unprecedented figures, alarming scientists and health experts that it could surpass the infections caused by Delta last year.

Worldwide, the total number of infected since the beginning of the pandemic has gone up to 6,237,525 and 117,465 deaths. This has baffled world leaders who now seem uncertain about which restrictions to impose and are scrambling to put in place everything from sufficient testing capacity to support measures for renewed economic disruption.

With the horrible figures staring us in the face, it’s probably time for authorities to adopt a system of responses entrenched in law and practice granting that waves of coronavirus variants are likely to hit us regularly.

The priority now is to handle the reality that Covid-19 is here to stay. Given that Omicron has caught leaders around the world unprepared, the consequences of a mutation that is both more contagious and more virulent hardly bear thinking about.

But the risk of another, potentially more lethal, variant is incontrovertible. A whole new order of preparedness is therefore imperative.

Our inspiration should be other types of pre-planned emergency responses like fire and safety drills, military war games, or police playbooks for anti-terrorism operations.

The advantages of advanced plans for pandemic outbreaks cannot be overemphasized.

First, the economic damage is minimized if businesses can organize their business model (and insurance) around such an eventuality.

Second, advance planning greatly facilitates government decision-making. A ready set of measures to be “switched on” in a crisis is vastly preferable to reinventing the wheel each time – and more likely to avoid the errors of hurried decision-making.

Third, the previous two advantages would reduce the political cost of acting early. Procrastination has been one of our deadliest enemies.
What the examples above show is that it takes more severe restrictions to bring a higher rate of contagion under control.

Planning for a permanent pandemic, rather than pretending it does not exist, is what learning to live with the virus really means.

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