Good news and bad news – a January 2022 COVID-19 update

Continuing with the theme of “good new, bad news”, two observations from the last couple of days.

Firstly, good news: the Omicron cases are going down, even though we are already well into January.

The current outbreak is indeed looking like moving to the declining phase, suggesting that – with “Plan B” and current restrictions – we have been successful in suppressing the spread.

The graph compares the current Omicron outbreak with the Alpha wave in the same period (Christmas – New Year) and one of the Delta waves. Note the logarithmic scale, so the exponential growth or decline look like straight lines.

Remember that in January 2021, a lockdown was introduced which was much more restrictive than the current “Plan B”. The August-September Delta wave spread in a not too dissimilar context.

So, the cases are going down, but there is something not right about them. Compared to the other two waves, the reported cases in Scotland are going down too fast. I suspect a large part of it is the change in testing regime, with LFD tests replacing PCR.

https://twitter.com/JR1991JR/status/1482752488503709714?s=20

So, moderately bad news: It is not inconceivable that as in September 2021 we will see the plateauing of the cases in a couple of weeks time, particularly if the restrictions are gone. I am just not sure the Omicron wave is really finished.

This leads me to the really bad news: It looks like the UK HM Government has already decided that we will be moving to the “living with the virus” stage.

The noises in the news and on Twitter are getting more visible, suggesting the end of all restrictions, including masks and work from home:

I am on record saying that I believe strict control measures need to go. I would very much like to see all current restrictions on movement, meetings, contacts and masking relaxed. But I am worried about the consequences.

I am concerned that this decision is being taken purely on political grounds, without any consideration for what it means for the epidemic.

We need to have a serious conversation on how “living with the virus” is going to look like. But there are no signs of such a conversation.

I – for once – agree with Dominic Cummings that the government(s) should have spent last year investing heavily into the health care – infrastructure, people, alternative treatments, strategies.

I can understand – although not excuse – that we were not prepared for the pandemic in 2020, but I think in the last year we could have done so much more to be able to fight this and other future pandemics proactively rather than continuing to respond to threats.

We have tried in the past to “Get Pandemic Done”, only to see another wave of illness, suffering, death. The virus is not going away; it will be with us for a long time. I am afraid we are blindly walking into another disaster.

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