When Omicron was found in South Africa in late November 2021 there was first a lot of panic over its higher transmissibility and mutations.
However, within a few weeks there was global relief as clinicians in South Africa said it as ‘milder’ than the previous Delta wave in terms of deaths and severity of infections.
Similar claims were subsequently made by other countries like UK, USA etc.
However, it is worth nothing that South Africa with a relatively young population had suffered massive surges of COVID-19 and particularly the Delta wave with sero surveys finding the majority of population having antibodies due to infection. This granted South Africa reprieve from Omicron due to natural immunity though cases and deaths shot up.
Similarly, UK, USA and many other countries had a combination of both massive infections and also massive vaccination campaigns before Omicron.
However, the story has been different when the same Omicron encounters a population that is not infected before, even if it is vaccinated.
While Hong Kong has a high level of vaccination, its people above 80 were mostly not vaccinated and Omicron is killing large numbers of them with record death rates and bodies not fitting in morgues.
In South Korea and New Zealand who are also COVID success stories like Bhutan, they are also facing huge spikes in cases and deaths despite high levels of vaccination, though it is not as bad as Hong Kong.
Bhutan so far defeated three outbreaks including the Delta which all led to around 2,000 cases and three deaths. However, Omicron in a short time has infected around 13,000 Bhutanese with six deaths. The numbers will rise more as our opening up is being forced in part by the transmissibility of this virus.
After the original Wuhan COVID-19 virus came Alpha which was around 50 percent more transmissible than the original virus, then came delta which is 80 to 90 percent more transmissible than Alpha, and now Omicron which is more transmissible than Delta.
Omicron can be compared to the original Wuhan virus which can turn deadly once vaccines or immunities wear off.
As we open up relaxations, we should be on our toes and always make any decision keeping the worse case scenarios in mind. A lot of it will be down to the public following restrictions as the virus will not only spread massively, but it can and will kill.
“Success is the sum of small efforts, repeated day-in, and day-out.”–Robert Collier.