CALM BEFORE THE STORMS?
Depending on where you live in Europe, 'Christmas is cancelled' is already a thing. Lockdowns and major new waves of Delta/Omicron have already started in Ireland, Germany, Austria, the Netherlands, and beyond. Travel is being curtailed, as is access to pubs, restaurants and crowded events. In England, the most laissez-faire of the UK's nations, there is a sort of blasé exceptionalism, commingled with a frantic surge in third (and fourth) vaccinations (boosters). The UK government has been keen to normalise the situation since summer, and 'move the conversation on' - the new variant is a bloody impertinence, and not on message at all.
This blog and its chief writer-editor are not optimists. I find the history of human conduct to be an almost infinite library of ignorance, cruelty and self-interest, leavened at times with striking acts of sacrifice, wisdom, and kindness noteworthy by their relative rarity. Violence and depravity seem hard-wired, but even if it is only cultural, this madness, it seems endemic to every culture, to some degree; and the left-right political struggle is probably eternal, since neither perspective has the full monopoly on sense. Science progresses, curing ills, but inventing new ones. We breathe in millions of small plastic particles daily, a microcosm of the macro-destruction visited on the planet by our technologies and industries. Even computing has a global heating footprint, a mammoth one.
Anyway, there are two ways to interpret the Omicron information. We are told we will know 'more' in 'two or three weeks' - in short, Christmas, when it may be too late.
If Omicron is going to be milder, and mostly a tempest in a teapot, fine, stop reading now.
It may be.
However, every thing known so far suggests the following. Omicron
1. is astonishingly more mutated than any previous variant
2. escapes some or all immunity from previous infection
3. probably evades some if not all vaccine immunity
4. is maybe 500% more contagious than Delta
5. is likely no more mild than Delta and may make children sicker
6. is in the UK now
Given these 6 statements, it is not hard to see where a new wave hits the UK in the next 3-7 weeks, and forces a lockdown.
If 5 times more people get ill with Covid, 5 times more people would be hospitalised and 5 times more die -
this would be 250,000 cases a day, 35,000 in hospital a day, and around 700 deaths a day.
If the virus also evades immunity even by 10% (and it is likely by far more), and is even 5% more fatal, we could soon be around 1,000 deaths a day, without lockdown.
Anyway, we may be fortunate, we will know soon.
Meanwhile, President Biden and the US state department warn that Russia is planning to invade Ukraine in January. They have warned of strong financial punishments, but it is hard not to see some form of military engagement between superpowers developing.
China could choose this moment to invade Taiwan. China seems to have hypersonic weapons technology that is 10-30 years in advance of the West.
It is possible no wars will happen in the next 60 days, and no terrible new waves in the UK (though these are happening everywhere else).
Nevertheless, the fact that the daily news reports contain such possibilities, and the uncertainty is so high, means this is inarguably the bleakest moment in human history since 1938-39.
17% of UK adults are on anti-depressants; 1 in 6 British adults polled say the world will never go back to normal. This is a frightening, anxious, depressing, and profoundly strange time; we have not even mentioned the new risks from AI, and the erratic weather, the Brexit delays, and the impact on mental health from social media.
Every day at the moment is a bit of a slog through a tundra-like waste land - one needs to keep going. one can't, one will. Very Beckett.
Or maybe it will all be fun and sunshine going forward?
The human spirit is being tested, let us hope we do not fail.