Three lessons to learn about Omicron as the virus invades

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Jason Heale

Jason Heale

Auckland, January 17, 2022

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                                                                         Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO Head, Emerging Diseases (Getty Images)

 

Omicron is coming; everyone knows it.

The latest mutation of the Covid-19 virus is making headlines all over the world.

We are told that case numbers are off the charts around the globe; the Australian numbers alone are staggering; nearly a million cases in the past two weeks.

Yet some are suggesting Omicron is an opportunity to wipe out Delta.

Historian and philosopher Edmund Burke once observed, “No power so effectually robs the mind of all its powers of acting and reasoning as fear.”

So, to fight the fear, let us ask ourselves: What might Delta teach us about dealing with Omicron?

Case Numbers Can Mislead.

Queensland is a good comparison, where the population of the state is 5.1 million, close to our own ‘Team of five million.’ Their case numbers are extremely high: 15,000 in one day recently. Yet since the pandemic began, they have had a grand total of 17 deaths, far fewer than our own total of 52. Of their currently active 20,000 cases, only 26 are in ICU. All of their six recent deaths were over 70, with significant underlying health conditions.

We need to focus on hospitalisations, ICU admissions, and deaths from Covid, rather than with it. These numbers indicate the true burden on our health system.

Lockdowns are not Risk-free.

Lockdowns have side effects. They impact not only the economy and jobs, but also mental health, as well as elective, and sometimes even life-saving surgery.

Waikato Economics Professor John Gibson noted that a surge in deaths post lockdown in 2020,“…was concentrated on the elderly so public health interventions only slightly postponed death.”

More stridently, Stanford Epidemiologist and Economist Jay Bhattacharya has described lockdowns as “…the single worst public health mistake in the last 100 years.”

“We will be counting the catastrophic health and psychological harms… for a generation,” he said. Rather than mass lockdowns, Bhattacharya believes that “focused protection” for the most vulnerable, the elderly, is the best approach.

Support Our Schools.

Just before Christmas, the Education Review Office (ERO) released a report, “Learning in a COVID-19 World: The Impact of COVID-19 on Teachers and Principals.”

It got buried in the pre-Christmas change in gear when the country starts to switch off, but the picture of our schools in its findings is alarming.

Teachers report low levels of satisfaction in work, stress related to student behaviour, lack of support, and unmanageable workloads. They need help. Educators need training in digital teaching strategies, creative solutions to overcome the digital divide and ways to mitigate problems with student anxiety and learning gaps. Contingency plans in place to deal with staff shortages due to sickness would also be helpful. Our teachers, and our kids, need more than sympathy.

Delta definitely taught us about COVID. It would be wrong not to learn from what happened, using Delta’s lessons to mitigate the Omicron hysteria that will accompany surging case numbers. We need to start now.

Let us walk confidently into the future, looking back at the past clearly.

Jason Heale Is Communications Officer at Maxim Institute based In Auckland.

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