It seems that COVID-19 omicron has spread all over the world in only 2 months from when it was noticed in southern Africa. The spread has been faster than most other infectious diseases in naïve populations. China has now locked down three cities to stop the spread. The Chinese lockdowns really hurt consumers who may not have enough food to survive for months on end. The World Health Organization says more than 200 million people in Europe could be infected with the omicron variant of the coronavirus in the next six to eight weeks.
The WHO has indicated that infection rates are off the charts with more than 15 million new verified cases per day. Hospitalization rates are lower but the death rates have risen. The WHO admits the numbers of new cases is a very weak estimate as omicron has rapidly spread across the planet. The U.S. saw the biggest jump in cases with 4.6 million new infections reported for the week through Sunday, a 73% increase over the prior week, compared to a 55% global increase in cases over the same period.
Hospitals are overwhelmed with unimmunized patients and ICU units are also filled with unimmunized patients. The original Wuhan serotype immunization does confer enough resistance to largely avoid hospitalization. Delta infections in immunized persons tends to be substantially less serious. Omicron infections are also substantially less serious.
Even though omicron is less severe than delta, it is still putting people in the hospital. It is still putting people into ICU and needing advanced clinical care. It is still killing people. Complacency is unwise. Locally hospitals are largely filled with people who are not immunized. Many unimmunized are also in the ICU and represent the bulk of deaths being reported.
The WHO is still worried sick about a tsunami of more delta and omicron cases. In particular, recent data from Italy and Germany show that people who are not vaccinated are far more vulnerable when it comes to hospitalization, intensive care and death. New immunizations will be available in March which are sorely needed now.
In the EU several nations are now considering COVID-19 to be endemic requiring annual shots similar to influenza. Given both mutate regularly it does make some sense. mRNA can be made to immunize persons from influenza as well as coronavirus. The UK believes omicron will have passed as the number of new cases is beginning to fall.
Sadly it’s only a matter of time before a new serotype emerges to start the cycle over again. RNA viruses tend to mutate rather quickly.