Marching hand in hand with COVID into 2022 and beyondWednesday, December 29, 2021
Two years of the novel coronavirus pandemic should have awakened everyone by now to the reality that the world will be living with the disease and its variants for the unforeseeable future.
The obvious takeaway from this realisation is that mankind, in general, and Jamaicans, in particular, must prepare to exist alongside this enemy and not waste our time just hoping that it will go away or pining after the pre-COVID-19 times.
As the year draws to a close, America's Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported Tuesday that the fast-spreading Omicron variant was estimated to account for 58.6 per cent of coronavirus variants circulating in the US for the week ending December 25.
Omicron cases have been rising across the world far faster than initially thought. The US and the United Kingdom are reporting record daily cases, with cities like London and New York worst affected.
The transmissibility of the variant has caused scenes of interminably long lines of people, with waits upwards of three hours, rushing to get tested for the virus all across the US. That's the bad news.
The good news, however, is that, so far, the variant is estimated to be 15 to 20 per cent less likely to send infected people to hospital emergency rooms, compared with the Delta variant, according to data from Britain's Imperial College of London, similar to US and South African findings.
But care has to be taken because, even accounting for 40-50 per cent less severity and hospital admissions, if there are three times more Omicron cases, that could result in more hospitalisations and deaths than previously seen with Delta.
That has manifested itself in, among other things, the cancellation of thousands of airline flights globally as pilots and stewardesses called in sick, right in the middle of the Christmas holidays when millions of people had been booked to travel; keeping them away from loved ones for a second year running.
Understandably, there are no reliable estimates as to when the pandemic will end. And that is why it is far more productive to spend our time seeking out ways to get on with our lives, while trying to avoid being infected where possible.
While the novel coronavirus pandemic — described as the worst the world has seen in the past 100 years — defined global existence in 2020, it is up to us to ensure that we use the lessons learnt to chart a realistic path to the future.
The illness has been so pervasive that it affected nearly every aspect of life — from work, school, transportation, entertainment, sports, and socialisation, to everyday activities like getting groceries and even what we wear. That is why it is unlikely that life will ever go back to that old normal in its entirety.
But that may not be necessary. Out of every adversity comes some opportunity. As our own Executive Chairman Adam Stewart advises: “Never waste a good crisis.” Put another way, take advantage of the opportunities.
For example, we have seen the burgeoning of the delivery and online shopping sectors. We are all learning to do our banking transactions online, worship online, attend classes online, work from home, and the like.
If nothing else, we will be more ready for future pandemics and other global disasters.