Could the omicron be the beginning of the end of the coronavirus pandemic?
With the appearance of new variants, the coronavirus pandemic seems to be becoming an inseparable part of our existence that has already changed our way of life forever. However, several experts point out that the rapid increase in infections attributed to the omicron strain, which is spreading at unprecedented speeds around the world, could be relatively brief and even alleviate the pandemic.
The omicron variant (B.1.1.529), detected for the first time on the African continent in November 2021, is characterized by a high amount of mutations with a transmissibility that exceeds that of the delta variant and has a greater ability to evade the protection of existing vaccines. However, early data suggest a less gravity of the disease in patients infected with the omicron strain.
“A tsunami of cases” of covid-19
This Tuesday, the director general of the World Health Organization (WHO), Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, express their concerns that the omicron variant of the coronavirus, circulating in parallel with the delta strain, could lead to a “tsunami of cases.”
“Currently, delta and omicron are the double threat which increases the cases to record numbers, which in turn leads to spikes in hospitalizations and deaths, “he warned.” It continues and will continue to put enormous pressure on exhausted medical workers and healthcare systems on the brink of collapse and will once again alter lives and livelihoods, “he said. the head of WHO.
The forecasts infections reported by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on December 27 show a similar picture with a drastic increase of more than 15,000 possible hospitalizations by mid-January.
“A rapid fire”
However, some experts estimate that the rapid spread of the omicron strain of the coronavirus could be key to the transition to the endemic level of covid-19 with a stable number of infections, given that a large number of cases would result in an increase in people with natural immunity.
“My hope is that we have a drastic peak with omicron, which [el número de los contagios] decrease to a very low level and just stay there and we no longer have other really problematic variants, “said US chief epidemiologist Anthony Fauci in statements para The Washington Post.
“Sometimes a rapid fire can break out very quickly but turn off on its own“said David Ho, a virologist at Columbia University, aforementioned by CNBC.
For his part, William Hanage, an epidemiologist at Harvard’s TH Chan School of Public Health, wrote in an email to The Washington Post that the omicron “will not be easy” but “it will be fast.” “At the beginning of spring, many people will have already experienced covid-19,” he said.
Data on new infections in South Africa appear to support the theory. According to the authorities, the week ending December 25, 2021 there was a decrease in infections of one 29,7 % compared to the previous week. “All the indicators suggest that the country could have passed the peak of the fourth wave [del coronavirus] nationwide “, reads the release of the South African Special Cabinet published on December 30.
However, David Ho admits that at the moment it is a “speculative” theory based on how most viruses act since data on the new variant are still lacking, although the possibility is still debated by experts.