The Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19, has spawned yet another strain.
“Just as the omicron surge starts to recede in parts of the U.S., scientists have their eye on another coronavirus variant spreading rapidly in parts of Asia and Europe. It’s officially called ‘omicron BA.2,’ and this week scientists detected cases of it in several U.S. states, including California, Texas and Washington,” NPR reported.
“Although BA.2 is currently rare in the U.S., scientists expect it to spread in the country over the next month. There’s growing evidence that it’s just as contagious as — or possibly a bit more contagious than — the first omicron variant, called ‘omicron BA.1.’”
“It could be that BA.2 does have some small advantage,” Emma Hodcroft, an epidemiologist at the University of Bern told NPR. “BA.2 might well be, like, 1% to 3% more transmissible, or something like that.”
While some scientists are concerned about the new strain, some experts are now saying the original variant of Omicron could change everything.
“World health officials are offering hope that the ebbing of the omicron wave could give way to a new, more manageable phase of the COVID-19 pandemic, even as they warn of difficult weeks ahead and the possibility of another, more dangerous variant arising,” Fox News reported.
The news network cited Dr. Christopher Murray of the University of Washington, who developed the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation model, which projects that “nearly all nations will be past the omicron wave by mid-March. … The wave will leave behind high levels of immunity — both from infection and vaccination — that could lead to low levels of transmission for many weeks or months.”
What happens then? “We end up with the highest levels of global immunity that we’ve seen in the pandemic,” Murray said. His model estimated that 57% of the global population has already been infected with the virus at least once.
But we’re not through this thing yet.
“Even if we project a more optimistic future, right now we still have a lot of COVID spreading, a lot of strain in our hospital systems, and our deaths have not yet peaked,” Lauren Ancel Meyers, director of the University of Texas COVID-19 Modeling Consortium, told Fox. “There’s still a lot of pain before omicron has run its course,” Meyers said, but added: “It’s very plausible that Omicron will be a turning point in terms of our relationship with this virus.”
The World Health Organization (WHO) is more pessimistic. The worldwide scourge of COVID-19 last week entered its third year in the U.S., which means David Nabarro, the WHO’s special envoy for COVID-19, is predicting it won’t be until 2024 that we see an end.
“What people are seeing from around the world and reporting to the WHO is this is still a very, very dangerous virus, especially for people who have not been vaccinated and who’ve not been exposed to it before,” Nabarro told Sky News, according to The Daily Mail. “The end is in sight, but how long is it going to take to get there? What sort of difficulties will we face on the way? Those are the questions that none of us can answer because this virus continues to give us challenges and surprises.”
“It’s as though we’re just passing the halfway mark in a marathon and we can see that yes, there is an end and fast runners are getting through ahead of us. But we’ve still got a long, long way to trudge and it’s going to be tough,” he said.
Joseph Curl has covered politics for 35 years, including 12 years as White House correspondent, and ran the Drudge Report from 2010 to 2015. Send tips to [email protected].
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