It was recently reported that all COVID-19 restrictions in the UK could be lifted by March, but does the science support the roll back of precautions globally? Not according to World Health Organization Director Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who recently gave a sage warning that we are not out of the woods quite yet.
"This pandemic is nowhere near over and with the incredible growth of Omicron globally, new variants are likely to emerge," Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a press conference, reports Insider.
"The virus is circulating far too intensely with many still vulnerable. For many countries, the next few weeks remain really critical for health workers and health systems."
Moves such as that being touted in the UK is the next logical step when COVID-19 becomes endemic, but it’s highly questionable that COVID-19 fits the bill just yet. A pandemic describes disease spread that is global and exponential (like all those delicious graphs).
An endemic disease is one that is widespread but stable and predictable in its spread. Think of the common cold which has maintained its chokehold on the globe for hundreds of years.
Indeed, data from Johns Hopkins would seem to refute the idea that endemicity has been met, certainly for the United States. Here, recent data shows the US is currently riding an enormous spike representing around 67 million active cases.
While a gloomy reality check, there is some hope that Omicron – which, while still very serious, carries a less deadly symptom profile than Delta – could act as a sort of live virus vaccination. "I would hope that that's the case, but that would only be the case if we don't get another variant that eludes the immune response to the prior variant," said US chief medical advisor Dr Anthony Fauci at the World Economic Forum.
Avoiding such a variant requires something that we as a planet have fallen behind on so far in the pandemic: vaccine equality. Unless resilience to COVID-19 is built up globally, we run the risk of allowing new variants to emerge against which previous vaccines provide no protection. This is one of several ways through which the Omicron variant might first have evolved and is more likely to happen when vaccines are hoarded in certain parts of the globe.