Opinion: It’s difficult to know how worried we should be about Omicron

Just when we thought the worst of the coronavirus pandemic was behind us, along came the sinister-sounding Omicron.

Tuesday, 30th November 2021, 12:31 pm

It was to be expected – after all, viruses mutate.

But how worried should we be about this new strain of the disease, first identified in South Africa?

At the time of writing, 14 cases of the variant had been reported in the UK.

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We'll learn more about Omicron in the coming weeks.

According to Boris Johnson on Saturday, ‘it does appear that Omicron spreads very rapidly’.

The variant has an ‘extensive’ mutation which means it may ‘at least in part’ reduce the protection of the vaccines over time, the PM added.

Sounds alarming – but then we heard from Dr Angelique Coetzee, part of the team that discovered the new strain.

Dr Coetzee, a practising doctor of three decades who chairs the South African Medical Association, said: “It may be it’s highly transmissible, but so far the cases we are seeing are extremely mild.

“Maybe two weeks from now I will have a different opinion, but this is what we are seeing. So are we seriously worried? No.”

Phew!

But then we had this warning from the World Health Organisation: “The overall global risk related to the new variant … is assessed as very high.”

So at this stage, it’s difficult to know for certain how concerned we should be about Omicron.

Experts are working tirelessly to learn more about the new strain and answer key questions, including how effective our existing vaccines are in preventing serious disease against this variant.

After living through the Covid-19 pandemic for the last 20 months, I think we’ve all learned to take each moment as it comes and not to worry too much about what may or may not happen in the future.

We should know more about Omicron in the coming days and weeks – but for now, continue to stay safe.

Wish list

Wearing a face covering in shops and on public transport is now compulsory again in England.

I don’t mind this – it’s hardly a major inconvenience – but I do wonder how effective my disposable and cloth masks are in preventing disease.

Maybe I should ask Santa for a high-grade FFP3 covering this year – although I hope his elves sanitise their hands before they wrap it up.