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COVID-19: One year on

“History doesn’t repeat itself, but it often rhymes.”

Mark Twain

I wrote these words in December 2020.

Vaccines for COVID-19 are now being rolled out, but in some parts of the world, this good news has been tempered by the emergence of new, potentially more infectious strains of the virus. Exactly how the pandemic will evolve has become more uncertain. (…)

Certainly, the next three or so months will be challenging, and a virus-free life is probably some way off. Some things may not return to how they were before.

Coronavirus: how the pandemic could play out in 2021 (theconversation.com)

I did not predict a rise of delta or omicron (the article was written in the middle of the alpha pandemic). Having read it again, I do not think there is anything there that was wrong; in fact, I was probably too optimistic.

I finished the article with the following sentences which – I think – are still valid:

The social and economic effects of the pandemic will probably be long-lasting too. Perhaps life will never return to what it was before. But it is up to us to make it safer by being better prepared for future pandemics.

Coronavirus: how the pandemic could play out in 2021 (theconversation.com)

As the New Year Day is approaching, I wish you all the best for 2022 – stay safe!

Omicron: what the next few weeks will look like

The new “variant of concern” is spreading globally and there is clearly a lot of interest in what it means for the virus to spread over the Christmas period, regulations and restrictions, and the longer-term development of the pandemic.

I have been asked to provide an up-to-date review of the omicron outbreak, focusing on the UK. This article has just appeared on The Conversation. I hope it provides a balanced review, as omicron is really a mixed bag of good and bad news.

I am sorry for not having more positive news for Christmas, but I do hope the new year 2022 will be a better one.

In the Christian tradition, Christmas is a celebration of hope revealed, although not yet fully accomplished. It is also a time of joy, peace and family get-together.

It is therefore so appropriate in the time of the pandemic to recall words written nearly 2,000 years ago:

Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people (…) on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased

Lk 2:10, 14, ESV.

Is Omicron outcompeting Delta in the UK?

Some mixed messages regarding what might be happening with the two dominant strains in the UK.

On one hand, Omicron appears to be winning in most countries. It now accounts for 100% of cases in South Africa and it is growing rapidly in other countries and on other continents. Graph below shows an increase in delta share over 2-3 months between March and July 2021 and its rapid replacement by omicron in November 2021 – note different time scales:

However, the latest data from the UK government suggest a slowdown in how the proportion of omicron grows, but this could be a temporary respite or a data problem (the number of samples is low):

This shows omicron (black circles; Cases with confirmed SGTF – S gene target failure) and delta (open circles; Cases with confirmed S-gene).

Depending on the point of view, it could be good news – a highly infectious omicron variant being outcompeted by delta, or bad news – as delta is potentially more severe.

We shall see in the next few days where the trajectory goes.