Omicron may have smaller teeth, but they’re sharp


It’s been four weeks since we learned of the existence of the Omicron variant of the novel coronavirus and despite intensive international research, we have yet to unlock the secrets of this new riddle. From relatively reassuring announcements by experts about its lower toxicity as opposed to the lethal Delta, we go to disheartening information about its much higher transmissibility. Studies pointing to a very high risk of reinfection from the Omicron strain are also causing a lot of concern.

In line with a scenario that has already gained traction, many experts are assuming – or hoping – that the virus has mutated into a milder version that will facilitate its survival without killing its hosts. This would certainly not be the only evidence we have of its ingenuity, and it is no reason to breathe more easily. Humanity, meanwhile, is responding to the virus’ incredible ability to survive with its own form of intelligence: with medicines, vaccines, specialized hospital care, incessant research and technology that is constantly being improved.

The situation would be a whole lot better, however, if the fractured community of men also rallied its cooperative spirit against the virus and showed a much, much more obvious inclination for solidarity than its lackluster performance so far. Pharmaceutical industries should also be regarded as units of the universal community battling the same terrible foe. But they are preventing themselves from being ranked as such, since even the massive scale of the pandemic has failed to convince them that they need to re-evaluate their priorities and recalibrate their motivations.

Sporadic donations of small quantities of vaccines to poor countries – where low immunization coverage has trapped them in a situation where they are becoming like laboratories producing variants – are not enough to absolve them of their responsibility.

As far as governments are concerned, only those who fulfill the following criteria come close to having achieved an effective management strategy. First, abiding by the recommendations of the scientists and not improvising off the cuff; second, acknowledging that failure is ready to pounce as soon as they start crowing about their success; third, making sure – even belatedly – to prop up their public health systems; and, fourth, staying away from the soap box, from repeating again and again that the pandemic is almost over, from boasting: “we never…” Never? The virus is adaptable and intelligent; we should try to be the same.