Why the Omicron variant marks the beginning of the end
C/O Mark Sanchez
The pandemic will come to an end, but only with fair and meaningful restrictions
Cloth masks won’t cut it anymore, so you must purchase medical masks. No, not those, the expensive ones that are out of stock. If you’re experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, isolate yourself from family and friends for a minimum of ten days. You should definitely be back to work in five though.
We will start to limit PCR testing, so instead, use rapid-antigen testing kits. Good luck finding those, but if you do, don’t use them because they’re not accurate. You need PCR. But wait, they have great news! Elite sports are allowed to run. Not the largest university athletics organization in Ontario though, they said elite.
As hard as it may be to believe right now, all pandemics do eventually come to an end, though the fate of this one is clouded by the rising Omicron variant. Just as many started to regain hope for returning to a pandemic-free lifestyle, the Ford government placed further restrictions in Ontario in response to Omicron on Jan. 6, 2022.
These changes included a halt to indoor dining, gyms, movie theatres and further capacity limits for essential and non-essential businesses.
The execution of these changes, however, left many confused with questions about how this will aid in efforts to control the spread of COVID-19, with just one thought at the forefront of thousands of minds: make it make sense.
How exactly does this response fit into the potential end of the COVID-19 pandemic? First, it’s important to note that this alleged “end” cannot be abrupt, but one so gradual that COVID-19 will become something that the world simply has to learn to coexist with.
This may sound frightening at first, but recall that the human race has been doing this for centuries with viruses such as influenza and measles.
After establishing that COVID-19 isn’t going away, governments must set clear and realistic goals of how life is expected to be like upon endgame and take measures that directly result in said goals. At some point, the World Health Organization would declare when the pandemic is officially over, after measuring each country’s success in controlling case counts, or hospitalizations and deaths at the very least.
This would mark the endemic, or a post-pandemic state many would call the “new normal”. The endemic would mean reaching a somewhat steady-state of manageable cases, but how many is not exactly a scientific question, but a social one.
Omicron has proven to be an ultra-contagious variant so different as a result of mutations that it has managed to evade detection by immune defences gathered through previous infections and even vaccines.
New variants would still arise every so often again, much like the flu, but booster vaccines that are better catered to new mutants will also continue to evolve, as will the human immune system.
Additional measures and meaningful restrictions can effectively reduce hospitalizations caused by Omicron and give the general population a chance to boost their vaccinations. After all, it’s easy to point out that a major barrier preventing the COVID-19 pandemic from evolving into a flu-like endemic is hospitalizations and deaths.
With over 100,000 active cases in the province, this is more important now than ever.
Despite this, the request still seems to remain: make it make sense. As long as healthcare pursues a capitalist model, anything experts will say may be perceived as persuasion and manipulation rather than facts that fuel an effort to safeguard the public.
Naturally, the first community that government officials turn to for information and guidance is the scientific one. Where most governments fall short is listening to research done by the social science and humanities community.
Time and time again, social scientists have identified how public health communication can impact the way people respond and act. Especially since this crisis so heavily relies on behavioural changes on a massive scale, social science can be used to align human behaviour with scientific recommendations.
The public continues to announce their frustration on further restrictions and lockdown measures that don’t seem to offer any slivers of hope. Some have even drawn comparisons between COVID-19 and suicide death rates, implying the importance of one over the other.
However, ranking equally important issues and insinuating the dismissal of one will not solve nor validate the other.
So how exactly can the government induce restrictions that appease the general public? It’s impossible. What’s completely plausible though, is alleviating mass confusions that accompany tighter regulations.
Lockdowns and public health measures will continue to seem like a performance act to the public unless they’re joined by measures that rebuild the damages inflicted by for-profit agendas on our healthcare system. It may be the key to reaching the endgame before running out of greek alphabet letters.