Omicron: a new global threat 

The situation can get really bad

In October when the world was distressed about the next wave of coronavirus and were highly concerned about the intensity of the next wave, South African laboratory technicians all of a sudden came across a coronavirus sample that was “seemingly unusual”, which led to the discovery of a new Corona variant, which South African scientists had named “Omicron”. More than 50 mutations were found in the Omicron sample, a few of which resembles the previously discovered coronavirus variants. The discovery of this newly found variant led to a gradual increase in the cases of covid-19 in South Africa, and it is said that such rapid increase in Omicron cases might be due to its high mutation sequence which now has raised major concerns about this never-ending pandemic.

It wasn’t long before new Omicron cases began to be reported all across the globe, with most of these infections said to be transmitted via travelling. 90 percent of the confirmed Omicron cases in Europe are said to have been transmitted through travelling from South Africa. Though many reported Omicron cases raised suspicions on the exact origin of Omicron, as many reported Omicron cases around the globe didn’t really travel through or from South Africa, while a few of those reported cases lack any travel history.

With the gradual increase in Omicron cases the World Health Organisation (WHO) has recently warned about the rapid spreading of “Omicron” the new coronavirus variant and had claimed it was spreading four times faster than the delta variant. Omicron is expected to last longer and hence be more transmissible than the delta variant.

According to a new study, Omicron is a crucial threat to vaccinated persons and recovered ovid-19 patients. Omicron, just like the coronavirus, evades the immune defence mechanism. Through the administration of vaccines, the coronavirus was prevented from weakening the immune system, but recently the researchers have found out that Omicron “changes the shape of its surface proteins” and ends up entering the immunised cell rather easily, which in this condition somehow makes it unique and widespread. Still many countries have begun booster campaigns to increase the effectiveness against Omicron and to prevent severe conditions developing.

Omicron can clearly be seen as a new challenge for the world as its severity and treatment is still unknown. In such a short time more than 80 countries are now reported infected with Omicron. While Europe is reporting its daily increasing cases of omicron, the same situation the world has dealt with before. Due to this rapid spread of Omicron and its sudden outbreak around the globe thousands of flights have been cancelled, many sports events have been cancelled, limitations on the number of people in private parties are imposed, many New Year and Christmas celebrations are also cancelled, and many countries are now enforcing the taking of booster doses of vaccine plus with other two complete doses of coronavirus vaccine, and lockdowns have been implemented again. Many people are protesting against these restrictions in their respective states, refusing to follow any of these rules but respective governments haven’t stepped back from their initiatives either.

Pakistan hasn’t been left far behind in Omicron discovery as Pakistan has also confirmed its first omicron case in Karachi whereas there were six more suspected omicron cases. Pakistan’s officials claimed that the first omicron case reported was an unvaccinated woman who had recently travelled from England, and hence requested the public to get vaccinated as soon as possible but here rise several questions, firstly that no official at the British and Pakistan airport checked her vaccination certificate neither she had a corona test at the respective airports, secondly whether the “vaccinated persons” are really at risk as British researchers told us before or Omicron would affect those persons rather mildly than did the original Coronavirus? The answers to these questions are completely unknown.

We still are entirely unaware of what Omicron would do to us in the next few months. W5ill it be the same as it was at the time when this pandemic began or will it be not infectious as coronavirus and its variants. Even if Omicron proves to be slightly less infectious than the delta variant, the situation would be just similar to what it was before. Hospitals will be filled again and lockdowns will be enforced again. Whatever the situation may be, the government and public should be prepared for the worst.

Pakistani officials are saying that there’s no need to panic at the very “Omicron situation” as 35 percent of population has already been vaccinated, moreover Pakistan has not only begun the booster doses campaign for the people above the age of 30 and has made vaccines mandatory for the public, but has also banned travelling from six African countries including South Africa, Ireland, Slovenia, Netherlands, Zimbabwe, Croatia, Hungary and Poland.

Doubtlessly a large proportion of the world’s population is now vulnerable to this newly found coronavirus variant and luckily Pakistan still hasn’t faced the dire consequences of this situation or the government is trying to hide the exact ratio of the omicron cases in Pakistan so the public may not “panic”. Let’s not forget when the government announced the outbreak of coronavirus in Pakistan, the government really suffered from convincing the public to actually make them follow SOPs. The majority of the population called this virus a “government’s strategy” while a few of them called it a “fake propaganda”. People only realized it was an “authentic situation” only when they themselves faced that dire truth.

What role the public would play when the Pakistani government would announce the “actual” number of omicron cases in our country? As the public have totally forgotten the SOPS and are utterly convinced that the coronavirus pandemic has been ended completely, maybe the public is still unaware of the beginning of a “new era of pandemic” or the severity of Omicron. As the reported cases around Europe have even crossed the thousand count and are constantly increasing on a daily basis whereas India has reported above 500 cases of Omicron. Why is Pakistan still safe from this variant? Are we really lucky enough or are we masters at hiding the exact figure?

We still are entirely unaware of what Omicron would do to us in the next few months. W5ill it be the same as it was at the time when this pandemic began or will it be not infectious as coronavirus and its variants. Even if Omicron proves to be slightly less infectious than the delta variant, the situation would be just similar to what it was before. Hospitals will be filled again and lockdowns will be enforced again. Whatever the situation may be, the government and public should be prepared for the worst.

Khadija Bilal
Khadija Bilal
The writer is a freelance columnist

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