Opinion: We will never live in a COVID-19 free world again. Accept it

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People wear face masks as they walk through a market in Montreal on November 28.Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press

Last month, at a White House press briefing, Dr. Anthony Fauci was asked whether COVID-19 would ever be conquered.

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“It’s going to be very difficult – at least in the near future, and probably ever so – to really eliminate this highly contagious virus,” said the chief medical adviser to the president of the United States.

What Dr. Fauci said was disappointing news for many. But that only echoed what epidemiologists and infectious disease experts have been insisting on for some time: COVID-19 and its mutant iteration will be with us for some time, and possibly forever.

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We have to start processing that reality.

News of a worrying COVID-19 variant, now known as Omicron, has shattered the illusion that many of us were operating under that we were nearing the end of this thing. The fact is, it’s hard to say exactly where we are with the pandemic, except that we were in a much better place than we were when the virus first exploded into the world unprepared for its heft and lethality. did.

We just don’t know enough about Omicron to say whether the global panic triggered by its arrival or not. It’s the World Health Organization’s job to warn us when these viruses are detected, but this time around, it could inadvertently cause worldwide alarm, saying the version did “too much” for the planet. risk, while at the same time acknowledging that there was much uncertainty about its lethality and whether vaccines provided protection from it.

The WHO strategy now seems to be: sound the alarm, find out what we’re doing later. Again, the WHO is in a damned-if-you-dos, damned-if-you-don’t situation, so I can forgive them here.

Omicron, and the fear it creates, must be something we put to good use. It may serve as a reminder of what experts have been telling us for some time – it is extremely unlikely that we will ever go back to a zero-COVID world.

It’s time we start accepting the possibility that these masks shouldn’t make us enter restaurants and jump on buses this year or next year. This may be something that becomes normal. Maybe in the best-case scenario, we see COVID-19 evolve into a flu-like, seasonal event that we take precautions to avoid occurring and spreading.

Dr. Jeremy Farrar, director of Wellcome, a London-based global health foundation, recently told Vanity Fair magazine: “We all have to start thinking, planning and catching up that this is now a human endemic infection and it will never go away. is going away.”

At most, it can be reduced with vaccines and personal health precautions. The same way we deal with the flu, which kills an average of about 3,500 people in Canada each year. By getting the flu shot, you limit your chances of getting it or becoming fatally ill from it. (In the United States, 12,000 to 52,000 people have died annually from influenza in the past decade).

Until we know more about Omicron, we need to reduce the level of anxiety it has created. There is no evidence that this is a Frankenstein killer any more lethal than anything that preceded it. Nothing close to that. It’s very likely that a type like Delta that scientists predicted will emerge unless we get more and more vaccinations.

This is a challenge in Africa, which is plagued by high vaccine hesitation and supply inequality.

Omicron’s best outcome will be that it eventually convinces the vaccine-hesitation to get a jab. And for those who’ve only taken one shot to get seconds. And for those who have already qualified for the third shot, to get it. It really is the best thing we can all do in the face of this new development.

We need to be vigilant, continue to respect our neighbors, remain kind and continue to understand that complacency is our real enemy here. COVID-19 is unlikely to ever be eradicated from the planet. It will become something we can easily live with, just as we do with many other diseases.

In the meantime, I will continue to live my life as I was before I knew anything about Omicron. That means going to restaurants, pinting at the pub with friends, playing golf when it’s not raining sideways, and working out at the gym.

Shrinking and staying inside is not an option. The only way is to go out every day with your mask on and common sense.

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