Omicron – good news and bad news and why we need to continue being careful

New SARS-C0V-2 strain, Omicron, seems to continue spreading in African and other countries, with almost 80% of the viral data accounted for by it, as in GISAID database this morning (6th December):

The cases in South Africa keep going up, driven by Omicron spread. Even in the UK where it is still a small %, the numbers of cases associated with Omicron are growing fast.

Quite a lot of news has been made of the data suggesting Omicron severity is lower than other existing strains, including the still-dominating Delta one:

This seems good news, but two warnings are needed at this stage. Firstly, we still do not know what impact it will have in countries like the UK, with a very different population structure than South Africa.

Secondly,

which means that even if the Case Fatality Ratio (CFR) is low – as Dr Fauci seems to imply – the number of people hospitalised and dead might still be very large if Omicron is found to spread fast and to overcome the vaccine and prior-infection immunities.

This is not to try to scare people off; it is simply to warn (again) that the pandemic is not over, we are all in it together, and so we need to continue caring for each other – by balancing the health protection with social and economic care.

Feeling unwell

I am down with a nasty cold this week and have had to cancel my meetings both online and on-campus. Quite a change compared to last winter when I had absolutely no respiratory tract infections. 2019/20 winter was in turn very different to many winters before; I used to catch quite a lot of viral infections, including “fresher’s flu” almost every September.

There are other viruses around in addition to SARS-CoV-2. As we are starting to mix socially, we are more likely to catch them. Current vaccination only (and not perfectly) protects against the pandemic virus; there are currently no vaccines against the common cold – and we probably do not really need them.

Last year’s lockdown kept flu and other infections at bay, so our immunological system would by now have forgotten the protection against common cold viruses. This potentially makes us more susceptible to them.

Anyway, hope to be back in action in a couple of days, with all sorts of home remedies to help my immunological system. It would be interesting to know how much cross-immunity it is due to being infected with different coronaviruses; this could have implications for SARS-CoV-2 as we might be moving into the “endemic” stage.