The omicron variant of the coronavirus is already proving more vicious than previous manifestations, as it is reaching a heightened level of infection that is causing more and more people to fall sick. The positivity rate, which had been falling, is now ticking upward once again. It is not as deadly as the dreaded delta variant, but the country miraculously escaped the sort of impact that was seen only in neighbouring India, where the dead were left in the streets while awaiting cremation. Not knowing what saved the country means not knowing what we did right and thus that positive experience carried no lessons for the present. This raises the unpleasant prospect of the omicron variant doing what the delta variant was unable to do, which is to force the health system to collapse.
The omicron variant is less vicious than the delta variant as it is less fatal. However, it is still bad enough to make a victim seriously ill. If enough ill people turn to the health care system for treatment, and if the health system thereby collapses, the illness will lead to death, including among those who could have survived. Perhaps the most unwanted phenomenon, the one most likely to make the disease spread the fastest, is the unseemly wrangling between federal and provincial governments. People paid the price for this at the beginning of the covid-19 outbreak almost two years ago, and are again witnessing it, as the PTI’s federal government and the PPP’s Sind government apparently devote more energy to showing that the other was more responsible for mishandling the outbreak than it, than in helping it to combat the outbreak.
There is a brief window of opportunity here, when the variant is not fully upon us, but has hit us sufficiently hard for us to know that it has struck. The opportunity is to do such unglamorous things as increase our preparations in hospitals, as well as our vaccinations. Luckily enough, though developed for earlier variants, the vaccine does seem to give protection against it, and thus the vaccination drive must be kept going. There is no point in merely in throwing up one’s hands and relying on some kind of divine intervention. Besides, there has been a worrying increase in delta variant cases. That danger is not over, that the new one is upon us.