Who's afraid of Omicron, and what's happening with the world?!

Who's afraid of Omicron, and what's happening with the world?! Featured

I CAN almost hear my long-departed friend Rey Teves proclaim from the great beyond in his original Bislish: "I don't afraid!" Translated into the much more colorful Bisayȃ — our common tongue — as "wȃ gyud ko mahadlok!"

Indeed, many global experts have declared that Omicron has mutated into a benign viral infection, roughly equivalent to the common cold prevalent during wintertime in countries such as America where I am now. Although the leading US expert. Dr. Anthony Fauci. says it's too soon to know if enough people build natural immunity to Covid-19 by catching the highly contagious Omicron variant. What the data shows, so far, is the infection rate of the unvaccinated Americans is very much widespread and more severe, clogging some hospitals. CNN reports that case counts in the US have dipped from 800,000 daily cases on January 22 to 250,000 on January 29 while hospitalizations and deaths slightly declined. Experts say these are early signs that the infection wave may be starting to peak. Even Bill Gates sees a silver lining to this massive global Omicron surge.

The vaccination mandate, particularly on federal employees, has become so politicized here that big demonstrations are being conducted in Washington, D.C. as we speak — protesting the mandates.

In social media the debate between the advantages or disadvantages of vaccination and boosters has been obscured by partisan politics with claims that mostly the Republicans who value more the concepts of individual freedoms and have fused to be vaccinated are prone to infections hinting further that they comprise the greater majority of those hospitalized and among the dead. There are no figures to prove or refute this allegation, but it is a measure of how deep the divisions have driven American society apart that these questions are even being considered.

Pandemic to endemic

As of this writing, several countries, particularly the United Kingdom, Denmark and Spain have declared Covid-19 and its variants as no longer posing a threat to society. As opposed to pandemic, an endemic is defined by the US CDC as "the constant presence and/or usual prevalence of a disease or infectious agent in a population within a geographic area." Endemic means "it is here forever" like the common cold. With a stroke of a pen and an official government declaration, Covid-19 has been degraded to a status equivalent to the common seasonal flu that appears from time to time. As a pandemic, Covid-19 is gone along with the memory of the millions killed since the winter of 2019. Those dead souls will thus become footnotes with those that died during the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918 that reportedly killed 100 million worldwide and the Black Death of the Middle Ages that decimated 30 to 60 percent of the population of Europe, Asia and North Africa.

The World Health Organization (WHO) is, however, skeptical and thus ambivalent about the declarations made by some of its member countries. They maintain that the pandemic is still here with us until three billion of the seven billion people on earth will have been vaccinated. WHO and some holdout countries still maintain that unless 60 to 70 percent of the world's population have been vaccinated, herd immunity will not be achieved and Covid-19 continues to ravage the land.

Partisan politics —US and the world

The daily Senate hearings on the Jan. 6, 2021, assault on the US Capitol by former president Donald Trump's sympathizers continue to be highly partisan and toxic to the political conversation; and the civil and possible criminal cases now haunting Trump, his family and his allies impinge negatively on the American body politic, although Americans in poll after poll welcome this painful development perhaps as a purging mechanism.

On top of this is an issue of global import that has threatened to reprise the old rivalry between US hegemony and Russia's nostalgic longing for a return of the preeminence of the once formidable Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). This saber-rattling in the Crimea and Ukraine by both sides may yet turn serious. NATO allies are now involved by sending ships and fighter jets — armaments of war — to Eastern Europe, putting forces on standby. America is again mulling over sending boots on the ground to allies in Eastern Europe confronting Russia's massing troops on its border with Ukraine. All this after the decades-long debacle in Afghanistan where America had to retreat reluctantly like it did generations ago in Vietnam. Now this European sortie could be the beginning of Biden's war — with perhaps the same results as in Kennedy's, "Dubya" Bush and Obama's wars.

Just this week, North Korea launched another test missile meant to irk not only the US but even its allies China and Russia. These moves by Kim Jung Un were always being in the past to divert the attention of his people from their dire straits, a raging pandemic coupled with its economy collapsing, and perhaps to squeeze concessions from its allies — while playing to his megalomaniac tendencies. But the timing this time while global tensions are running high are at best puerile and dangerous. South Korea and Japan are the two countries, allies of the US, that are on tenterhooks and can merely look toward America for a proper response.

Incongruously, on the other side of the globe, China is putting up its best face forward for the Winter Olympics in the next few days — although the US may boycott the affair.

PH scenario

Meantime back home, the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) recently revised its guidelines for incoming international passengers. The entry, testing and quarantine protocols for arriving Filipinos and foreign nationals have been lifted for those fully vaccinated but still requiring negative results of the Covid virus from the reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test taken 48 hours prior to departure from the country of origin. This is welcome news for the tourism industry. Although the country has not declared itself Covid pandemic-free, massive vaccination of citizens is still mandatory. This is perhaps one of the major triumphs of Duterte's initiatives in reviving the economy while minimizing the debilitating effects of Covid.

Personal predicament

There is however a personal issue to the RT-PCR tests. In the US, studies have shown that Omicron-infected people with pre-existing health conditions are immunocompromised for months, showing a lingering virus presence in their system, appearing as positive or false negative although asymptomatic. This prevents boarding on international flights. I have pre-existing asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). My household of seven, including three grandchildren aged 6 to10 years, were infected with Omicron on Dec. 23, 2021. By year's end, my family's infection was gone. Mine did not. As I write this, I have had two RT-PCR tests showing positive results and two home antigen tests proving negative. Yet PAL cannot allow me a plane seat home for months on end until my RT-PCR tests turn negative. I may be stuck here, imprisoned by Covid until after the May 9 elections and condemned to accept an incoming president I did not vote for. Both sad prospects!

 

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Read 697 times Last modified on Wednesday, 02 February 2022 13:46
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