By William J. Furney
Just as we all started to relax and thought the worst of corona was over, the microscopic bug mutates, evades and strikes all over again, leaving the world worse off than ever.
Health chiefs in the UK and elsewhere are warning that the latest evolution of novel coronavirus — ludicrously named omicron by the equally absurd World Health Organization (so as not to upset the Chinese by branding it “xi” — could easily be around for at least the next year and a half, and we’d better get more jabs into our arms, after the two that many of us have already had.
Meanwhile, Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London, has declared a “major incident” over what he called a “huge surge” in covid cases of the omicron variety and Holland has just gone into a sudden lockdown.
“I stand here tonight in a sombre mood. And a lot of people watching will feel that way too,” Prime Minister Mark Rutte said yesterday. “To sum it up in one sentence: the Netherlands will go back into lockdown from tomorrow.”
“I can now hear the whole of the Netherlands sighing. This is exactly one week before Christmas, another Christmas that is completely different from what we would like,” he said, in announcing restrictions including the closure of non-essential shops, hairdressers, gyms, bars and other public places until the middle of January at least.
In the Republic of Ireland, pubs — and their patrons — are furious that they’ve been ordered to shut at 8pm amid a rise in covid cases there too.
And in a move that has caused further tensions on both sides of the English Channel, after a recent and tragic migrant boat sinking — the French have banned the Brits from entering their country. Germany is doing the same in keeping Britons out.
Increasingly, it looks like we’re back to where we started with the global mess, and Britain’s chief medical officer warned this week that we’d better steel ourselves, because the health crisis may rumble on for almost another two years.
“If I project forward, I would anticipate in a number of years — possibly 18 months, possibly slightly less, possibly slightly more — that we will have polyvalent vaccines, which will cover a much wider range, and we will probably have several antivirals,” Professor Chris Whitty told a parliamentary committee on health and social care this week.
He said “each six months will be better than the last six months” but that “what will happen is the risks will gradually decrease over time. It’s incremental; it’s not a sudden thing. But I think each six months will be better than the last six months. How fast that will be… it’s always dangerous to predict science.”
And he warned that covid will “always be a problem; some years it will be a big problem.”
The virus is believed to have emerged from a food market in Wuhan, China (although the Chinese are still refusing to share information they may have) some time in late 2018, with the first cases of the mysterious new disease erupting in early 2019. As of writing, there have been more than 274 million cases worldwide and 5.3 million deaths — that we know of, as some countries may lack the medical and testing resources and some people may not come forward with symptoms.
The United States, Brazil and India have suffered the highest deaths, with more than 823,000, 617,000 and 476,000 each, respectively. That may not be surprising, given those countries’ sizeable populations — but what about the most populous country in the world, China, and its 1.4 billion people? Just 112,000 cases and slightly over 4,800 deaths. So either Beijing is extraordinarily adept at controlling the spread of covid, where almost every other country has failed, or is, as usual, lying.
Let’s not forget that China harangued and harassed a doctor who tried to raise the alarm about the disease (and shortly thereafter died of it) and has locked up a citizen journalist who reported on what was happening.
As all this is happening, the race is on to get a third jab into people’s arms, and those double-jab covid passports we’ve all been using to get around may be redundant until another is added.
No one who has been jabbed is immune, and it’s not just the elderly and infirm who are succumbing to covid-19. I watched classical crossover group Il Divo kick off their Christmas tour in Maspalomas three weeks ago today, before they continued to the UK — and now one of them, Spaniard Carlos Marin, 53, has died at a hospital in Manchester, after being intubated and placed in an induced coma as he battled covid.
So it’s looking a lot like another miserable Christmas and a grim new year.
- Title image shows my growing collection of face masks, and is by me.