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Audrey Hinchcliffe | COVID-19: Ain’t no stopping us now!

Published:Thursday | January 20, 2022 | 12:06 AM

THE CORONAVIRUS or Sars-Cov-2 and its mutations are living up to the verse of the song – “There’s been so many things that held us down.

But now it looks like things are finally coming around.

I know we’ve got a long way to go, and where we will end up, I don’t know.”

(McFadden and Whitehead, 1979).

The referred singers have provided us with an anthem for the coronavirus pandemic. In this case, an anthem typifies or identifies with a particular subculture, movement, or point of view.

This is against the background that the virus will be among us forever and we now have to be prepared to coexist with it. The world had to learn quickly to understand the virus and its various mutations in order to put in place protocols and treatment regimens as there is yet no cure for the disease COVID-19. These protocols such as wearing masks, handwashing and avoiding crowds slowed down the spread of the virus. Despite these initiatives, to slow down the virus, it has continued to have its own way.

It was a time of rejoicing when scientists got the breakthrough with vaccines – Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, among others. We felt confident that controlling the virus – things are finally coming around – or so we thought.

Almost 22 months later, the virus is still among us, and at the time of writing when focus was on the treacherous Delta strain, here comes Omicron. We know we had a long way to go but here comes more uncertainty about the effects, transmissibility, and morbidity, and where this strain will end up, at this time we don’t know. The jury is still out on its behaviour.

McFadden and Whitehead were ahead of their time but whatever condition they were addressing back in 1979 sure rings true today – Omicron is here to hold us down, just as Delta was coming around, and where the pandemic is heading, we just don’t know.

Against this background, I refer you to my previous article titled ‘COVID-19: Roadmap for coexisting with the coronavirus’, published in The Gleaner on September 9, 2021.

In the article, I proposed that after a risk assessment of situations which expose us to the virus, it is a starting point for developing a roadmap or a personal plan on how to coexist with it.

Fast-forward today with mutations from Alpha to Delta and now Omicron, the referred roadmap becomes even more essential. The first order in our lives is health and safety. For these we have available vaccines, protocols for the array of exposures and personal responsibility underpin by embracing facts over fear. Treatment regimen is being enhanced by approved medications.

Educational modalities are being embraced in hybrid forms – face to face and virtual. Employment is also being structured in hybrid forms, from in office, to work from home, to working remotely. Each form has its pros and cons, and hence rests with employer and employee relationship.

We are seeing the advent of approval for sporting events with vaccinated versus unvaccinated protocols. On the other hand, entertainment is still facing restrictions on gatherings, coming from the Disaster Risk Management Act (DRMA) with confusion on the size of gatherings; and the process of obtaining permits. This is a clear case of where we will end up, we don’t know.

Social, religious, and family gatherings have had their fair share of restrictions but looks like things are finally coming around with the increase in the size of gatherings for church, funeral and weddings, and public-sector events. There is still remaining a mysterious crowd size numbering 100. It is quite curious as to this application.

As the virus continues on the move, travelling locally and abroad, with the virus going along, for example, Omicron hitch a ride from South Africa to, at the time of writing, already over 30 countries, and where will it end up, no one knows. One thing that is certain is that economic activities are once again under threat, chief among which is tourism.

Be mindful

Being mindful of the means for infection prevention and control, under the advice of respective country public-health bodies driving decision-making on the movement of people and cargo, each have to weigh what is necessary to hold down the spread of the new Omicron virus.

The experience gained from treating with Alpha to Delta provides a springboard from which to put in place measures to deal with Omicron. The race is on between Delta and Omicron as to which will become the dominant variant, hence making scientists’ public-health recommendations for treatments and infection control a real challenge. Coupled with lessons learned from previous epidemics and pandemics, we must be prepared as we must expect that others may well be around the corner.

“I know we have a long way to go, and where we will end up, I don’t know”.