It’s a war movie trope, the little boy tracking the allies on a map on his bedroom wall while the battle continues in Europe or the desert or the jungle or wherever. And Covid has felt a little like that.
I’ve been intently following every move the virus makes and the government efforts to damp it down. There was a single day, back in summer, when there were zero deaths recorded, the only one since March 2020 and I was jubilant! Then things started sliding the other way. It’s worthy of a war epic. The vaccines were a huge advance into enemy territory but the omicron variant looks like it might be about to outflank us. Boris, meanwhile, has corralled his troops and sent an army of boosters (literally, they’ve brought in soldiers) to deal a hopefully decisive blow.
And if you’re watching every covid move then you maybe noticed Professor Tim Spector, of the Zoe Study’s, omicron video, released at the weekend. In it the distinguished expert pointed out that he was flabbergasted that the government isn’t sharing the new symptoms of Omicron, saying ours is “one of the only governments in the world not telling its citizens what the symptoms are”.
Ours is "one of the only governments in the world not telling its citizens what the symptoms are"...
The symptoms, along with the percentage of patients reporting each one were then explained by the Prof. And whatever you think about his wall art, it’s well worth a watch.
1 – Runny nose (74%)
2 – Headache (72%)
3 – Sneezing (60%)
4 – Persistent cough (48%)
5 – Sore throat (48%)
Unlike OG covid, the Wuhan strain, which was all about the dry cough and loss of taste and smell, this brand new variant has much more cold-like symptoms (not handy given there’s also a cold epidemic doing the rounds).
The original symptoms of covid appear to be receding (less than half reported coughs) and the new symptoms are now dominant.
As, indeed, is the variant as of today. Boris Johnson yesterday told reporters that 40% of London’s covid cases are now the Omicron variant, and he expects that by today the variant will be London’s dominant strain. RIP Delta, but what can we expect of Omicron and are we headed back to lockdown?
All the signs are that the current variant is less severe than Delta, but that it’s a lot more catchy. Which means that many more people are going to get it than Delta, but that it’ll be less harmful. What this means is in the balance.
But yesterday the PM also announced that the first person had died ‘with Omicron’. However, this was all we got. Vital facts like their vaccination status were not included. It’s also the case that this person may well have had the variant but this was completely irrelevant to their death with one Professor rather unsympathetically pointing out that they could’ve been hit by a bus.
But the government clearly see keeping it vague as key to their booster roll out...
But the government clearly see keeping it vague as key to their booster roll out. Health Secretary Sajid Javid used his Sunday show interviews to tell us that people were hospitalised ‘with’ (ie not ‘from’) Omicron.
And in the wake of these announcements Britain has mobilised unlike any other country to get the all-important booster jabs into citizens’ arms, bringing forward the target for everyone boosted from the end of January to the end of December. They hope that this will stave off the need for further actions, though they aren’t making any promises.
They hope that this will stave off the need for further actions...
And ministers will likely have an eye on what’s going on in Westminster as well as on the wards. The government is facing a significant rebellion over their plans to reintroduce face masks and Work From Home when MPs vote today (they’ll be fine as the Labour party will back the plans to ensure it gets the majority it needs).
And there is a chance that this is what it’s partly about. Boris has been able to use the chaos of Omicron to wrestle back the narrative from party-gate, from wallpaper-gate, Kabul-pet-gate in fact the guy has more ‘gates’ than a Heathrow terminal, and in a remarkable turnaround he seems to be back on top. Ish.
The guy has more 'gates' than a Heathrow terminal...
But ultimately the next lockdown or relaxation will be decided by the virus and factors as yet unknown. The severity of the variant, the effectiveness of vaccines to combat hospitalisations and the number of people who refuse a vaccine and then get ill will all determine if we are ordered back inside to protect the NHS once again.
Fingers crossed, but with the booster campaign in full swing and initial reports suggesting Omicron is no Delta, perhaps we can allow ourselves to be optimistic?